Bellmore-Merrick Central District aids in Sandy relief effort


Seemingly out of nowhere, a pickup truck hauling a landscaper’s trailer pulled up in front of the Brookside School in North Merrick. It was filled with cleaning and baby-care supplies, all neatly labeled, a gift from an anonymous donor. Bellmore-Merrick Central District officials said they believed the donation came from a district retiree.

Such was the scene on Nov. 10, when the Central District and the Bellmore-Merrick Community Parent Center hosted a supply drive to benefit Hurricane Sandy victims. The effort brought together students, teachers and administrators from every district school, as well as officials from the central administration office.

Anonymous donations, many unbelievably generous, kept pouring in throughout the day, said Saul Lerner, the Central District’s director of health, physical education and athletics. “We had such an outpouring of support,” Lerner said. “The community has truly become one.”

And, officials said, some 140 families from throughout the community came to Brookside to pick up donated clothes, canned goods and cleaning supplies that day. They were also able to get a meal on the spot if they needed one.

The cleaning supplies were in greatest demand, noted Cynthia Strait-Regal, the district’s assistant superintendent for business.

The drive “was a true school-community partnership,” Strait-Regal said.

Dr. Mara Bollettieri, the district’s assistant superintendent for personnel, said that 10 crates of school supplies were donated, which were particularly helpful to students who lost backpacks and notebooks in the flooding.

“The community has really shared at a very difficult time,” Bollettieri said. Students from the Meadowbrook Alternative Program helped assemble donations in packages for families, she added.

The Bellmore Kiwanis Club, led by retired Kennedy High School teacher Judy Mankita, donated 40 $25 gift cards. Local beverage stores gave 500 bottles of water, and pet stores donated supplies as well. And Nassau County Legislator David Denenberg helped get the word out about the effort to the community, contacting community and civic organizations, churches and temples.

Wendy Tepfer, executive director of the Community Parent Center, said she could see the desperation faced by the families who came for supplies. “Some of them have lost everything,” she said. “They had no power. Their houses are not livable.”