‘Pay it Forward’ free flea market for local storm victims

A chain of hope in East Rockaway


In November, just days after Hurricane Sandy came through, resident Melissa Van Wickler began her journey to pay it forward.

“I began my pay it forward by delivering “smiles” to families in East Rockaway and our neighboring towns.” The smiles were baskets that she had made up that included Tupperware makeup candles, gloves cereal, and soaps — just some basic items that friends had supplied her with.

“I then found this group on Facebook called the ‘NDA’ — two women from out of town that started adopting families, and pretty much getting them everything they needed, from blankets to microwaves and furniture anything you put on your list they met the needs.” Van Wickler volunteered to bring the items to the families. Driving to Staten Island and New Jersey and back down to Rockaway and Breezy Point she went. “It made me feel great, but it wasn’t helping my community. I needed to do something huge for East Rockaway. And that’s when I decided to attempt the “Pay it Forward” event.”

It takes a community

With the help of so many, Van Wickler has been able to get a lot of donations. “I’m not a non-for-profit organization,” she said, “[so] it’s been a little hard trying to get corporations to make donations. It’s small business owners like Dori of Colori Bella in Oceanside that are donating items for our event, and people like Jade and Donna helping me with donations, and Theresa Gaffney working so hard to get the grants we need, that is making me become the messenger of all the good deeds.”  

Van Wickler said that she is proud that people in other towns are now attempting to do the same for their own neighborhoods. “This is what the meaning of ‘Pay it Forward’ is: If everyone could help three people out, and those three people helped another three people, it would create a chain of hope for New York.”

For more information, visit “Paying it Forward To East Rockaway NY’ on Facebook.