Paying it forward in South Carolina

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The South Shore of Long Island learned a lot from Hurricane Sandy. The real eye-opener was just how desperate, needy and helpless you can be when everything you own has been destroyed. Things you take for granted — drinking water, a roof over your head, a clean and dry floor to stand on, a shower, soap, a toothbrush, clean laundry, hot food — become urgent necessities.

A group of Island Park residents, who had sprung into action after Sandy in their own neighborhood, gathered up the cash and gift cards they had received from other parts of the county, and as many of those necessities as they could, and drove to Moore, Okla., when they heard about the devastating tornado there in May 2013. Little more than a month later, when there was devastating flooding along the Erie Canal, they did it again.

Last Friday, those same good-hearted people — partnering with Island Park Kiwanis, the Island Park Business and Residential Chamber of Commerce, Friends of Long Island, Vision Long Island and Matty Smokes BBQ and Catering (and its traveling barbecue pit) — left for South Carolina to distribute those same necessities to victims of the catastrophic flooding there.

They provided cash, gift cards and hot meals for 1,200 residents, as well as cleaning supplies and more than a few hugs. This all-volunteer mission was funded solely by cash and in-kind donations, and involved no administration fees; all of the proceeds went directly to flood victims. The contributors included John Vitale, Robert Knobel, Island Park Car Wash, Dover Catering, the Island Park Library and Fire Department, Larry Chorne of Island Advantage, Glen Bert of Long Island Exchange Antiques and County Legislator Denise Ford.

Their first stop was Georgetown, S.C., where they met up with the Low Country Veterans group, 220 Vietnam War veterans who helped with the distribution effort. A generator, donated by Knobel, was given to All 4 Paws Rescue on Pawley’s Island, along with bags of dog and cat food. All 4 Paws is working to rescue pets from the flood zones and reunite them with their owners or find new homes for them.

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