Seven-year-old Kiersten Brull, of Rockville Centre, tended a makeshift stand at the Malibu Shore Club in Lido Beach over the holiday weekend. On her boogie board sat painted seashells with colorful designs, alongside iced tea and cookies. The going rate was printed on a neon-green sign: 50 cents to $2, depending on the shell’s size. Above it, bubble letters spelled out, “Please help the people hurt by Hurricane Harvey.”
“When she saw a homeless person for the first time, her first thought was to raise money to buy blankets to make sure they do not get cold in the winter,” recalled Kiersten’s father, Martin. “So when she saw the devastation in Texas, she immediately wanted to help…”
As the storm’s unprecedented wind and rain relented in southeastern Texas last week, its aftermath was brought into startling view: at least 60 dead and an estimated $190 billion in damage, making it the costliest disaster in U.S. history.
Locals joined in to lend a helping hand. The Rockville Centre Lions Club, one of more than 45,000 clubs worldwide dedicated to serving their communities, started a collection of supplies to send to Texas.
“Your heart goes out to the people, being that we went through [Hurricane] Sandy and now we really know what everybody else is going through,” said Rockville Centre resident and Lions Club member Robin Webb, noting that while her home was not affected, friends in Long Beach and Island Park experienced the brunt of the storm that struck nearly five years ago. “The water came in and out of here quick, and now it’s sitting there, so I can’t even imagine what they’re going through.”
The essentials that Webb gathered at her home from fellow members included clothing, bags, cleaning supplies, toiletries, blankets “and diapers. A lot of diapers.” Local Lions Clubs coordinated to send their donations to the club in Bellmore, which was set to load a truck with them on Monday and drive to Texas.
“Anything that we can do to help,” Webb said. “They’re going to be out of quite a few things for quite a while, being that the stores can’t even open up with all this flooding and everything.”
Last week, the Most Rev. John O. Barres, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre — which includes St. Agnes Cathedral — asked for prayers and a special collection in all 140 diocese parishes to assist those suffering from the storm’s aftermath.
“We join in prayer and solidarity with all those who have been and continue to be impacted by Hurricane Harvey,” Barres said, noting that the families, first responders and rescue personnel, some of whom, he said, came from the diocese. “We also ask the parishioners of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, still feeling the effects of Superstorm Sandy, if they are able to help our brothers and sisters in Christ down south.”
The Rockville Centre-based Catholic Health Services’ Caregivers Fund made a $100,000 contribution to the special collection. “This donation is a visible demonstration of our mission and values, made possible by ongoing financial support of our employees to our Caregivers Fund,” said Dr. Alan D. Guerci, CHS’s president and chief executive officer. “This is just one more way CHS employees make a difference in the lives of others.”
A collection of supplies was held at the John A. Anderson Recreation Center, and the Mayor’s Youth Task Force also pitched in. A volunteer community-service program made up of Rockville Centre residents in sixth grade through college, the group is “no stranger to helping those in need,” according to Mayor Francis X. Murray. The task force has held a food drive at the start of school for the past few years, and this year it will have some new, Texan beneficiaries.
“In the wake of the devastation, all the non-perishable goods will go to help the victims,” Murray said. “I am proud that the task force is stepping up to provide some much-needed assistance with the relief efforts. We encourage our residents to join us in support of this critical need.”
After spending last Friday and Monday selling shells and refreshments, Kiersten Brull, along with her friend Maeve Martin, had raised a total of $204 for Harvey victims.
Martin Brull, said, “My wife and I are so proud of her thoughtfulness and compassion.”