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Helping Hands Try to Heal the Five Towns

One volunteer says the storm has "brought out the best in people."

Hewlett's Pamela Korn has distributed donations at Number Two School for the past few days. She estimates that the effort at the school — which also served as a polling site Tuesday — has aided at least 800 people.

The special education teacher at Hewlett High School started volunteering at the makeshift help center after seeing a sign in the neighborhood. Korn began tearing as she spoke about why the cause is so important to her.

“I couldn’t feel comfortable in my heated home when there’s so much suffering,” she said. “People have been so appreciative. People have been so generous. As tragic as the hurricane is, it’s brought out the best in people.”

Since the superstorm hit Long Island, causing destructions and darkness, local residents have devoted much of their time to help their neighbors. Large relief efforts were organized with the help of School District 15 administrators, including Superintendent Gary Schall, who has personally delivered supplies around the community.

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District 15 parents such as Giselle and Ira Eras, Central Council PTA Co-President Blasia Baum and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Ann Pedersen led volunteers comprised of parents, teachers and students to organize donated clothing at Lawrence Middle School.

Many teachers commuted, some with limited supplies of gas, to the community just to help out.

Peter Sobol, a tireless advocate for Inwood, and Felipe Plaza, who works at Five Towns Community Center, have distributed goods and helped with relief efforts there along with many of its staff members. The center has acted as a shelter for much of the week. Both men have slept there for a few short hours instead of returning home.

“Pete always does a lot for the community,” said George Machalani, owner of South Shore Pizza, who has donated food to relief efforts. “He’s a great guy, good-hearted. He always does these things for the community.”

Other business owners have also stepped up, opening their stores to let people charge their phones, giving out free coffee and distributing food. More aid has come from churches and temples (with the organizational help of Lawrence School Board President Dr. Asher Mansdorf), which have also sent supplies to those in need.

Then there are those who have opened their homes to refugee family members and friends.

Frank Mistero, the Republican leader of Inwood and an Atlantic Beach resident whose home was damaged in the storm, has coordinated with local elected officials for aid.

“The amazing part is how people of the community came together,” he said. “It shows we can get things accomplished. I love this community.”

But of course, we can’t leave out our volunteer firefighters, who have been inundated with calls since the storm and who - as residents - have been affected just as much as anyone. The Five Towns Auxiliary Police Unit, volunteers as well, have been on constant patrol in the neighborhood, under the leadership of Danny Gluck.

The effects of Hurricane Sandy will be felt for weeks, so the relief efforts are sure to continue.

“It’s just people helping people,” Plaza said. “It’s a beautiful act.”

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