Community rallies for flood victims

04/08/2010 12:00 AM |

Mary Blando’s 11-year-old daughter, Taylor, scrounged up $30 Sunday to add to the collection bin at the 7-Eleven near the Roanoke Avenue traffic circle to help a Horton Avenue flood victim.

“She felt it was her obligation,” Ms. Blando, a regular at the convenience store, said while grabbing a cup of coffee Tuesday. “She’s got a big heart.”

The Riverhead resident said her daughter was saving for an upcoming trip to Disney World, but decided to put her extra cash toward the fund. She also collected a couple of bucks from neighbors when she learned of the flood victims’ plight.

The Blandos were among scores of people who have dropped change or dollar bills into the collection at 7-Eleven, which manager John Biancaniello said has grown to more than $1,000 in less than five days. The money will benefit Ivory Brown, a 7-Eleven regular who was displaced by the flood.

“My customers are very generous,” Mr. Biancaniello said, adding that he hopes the total will rise to $1,500.

Mr. Biancaniello, who chipped in the first $20 last week, said he put the container out after hearing that Ms. Brown’s home was severely damaged and that she’d lost three cars in the flood. He said she had tears in her eyes as she recounted her story.

Mr. Biancaniello’s attitude was contagious this week as he subtly pointed the collection bin out to customers, many of whom took the hint.

Erin, an employee of the Riverhead Health Center, said she felt helping Horton Avenue victims was simply the right thing to do.

“We help out people all over the world,” she said after dropping a dollar into the container. “We might as well help out people here.”

The 7-Eleven is just one place where people are rallying around those affected by last week’s surprise deluge.

First Baptist Church of Riverhead is also collecting donations for victims. As of this week, the church was accepting cash as well as laundry detergent to wash clothes, linens and towels salvaged from flood-damaged homes.

The Rev. Cynthia Liggon said the drive is going “remarkably well.”

Though she could not say how much the church has raised in the past week, or how many people it has assisted, she noted that it also donated collections from its Good Friday service to the relief fund.

The Rev. Liggon said the church is still looking for donations of small appliances, clothes, garbage bags, food and money. The church will continue to collect for as long as there is a need, she said.

Katherine Murphy, regional administrator for the Suffolk County Red Cross, said her organization has spent about $12,000 to help victims since last week. That money paid for clothes, shoes, food and motel rooms for more than 50 flood victims in Riverhead.

She explained that the Red Cross put a few families in motel rooms the first three days after the flood to enable them to figure out their next move. She said that once people decide on permanent arrangements, they can return to the Red Cross to explore what options are available.

“We’re still helping people,” she said. “It’s just not immediate.”

The hardest part of responding to the disaster was that nobody expected it, Ms. Murphy said. “Everyone was really shocked,” she said.

She noted that some people on Horton Avenue were able to return to their homes and grab clothing and other items, though others still cannot access houses there.

To donate through the church, make checks payable to First Baptist Church of Riverhead, Horton Avenue Flood Fund and mail them to Horton Avenue Flood Fund c/o First Baptist Church of Riverhead, 1018 Northville Turnpike, Riverhead, NY 11901.

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