Community outpouring the only help for Horton

06/10/2010 12:00 AM |

Robert Scheiner (left), senior vice president of HzM, gives a check at Town Hall Thursday morning to Horton Avenue resident and community organizer Linda Hobson (center) and Shirley Coverdale, who sits on board of directors of the Long Island Organizing Network, and her church, First Baptist Church of Riverhead, has overseen the flood fund.

Private donations have to date been the only financial assistance that’s reached flood victims on Horton and Osborn avenues in Riverhead, more than a half dozen of whom remain displaced from their waterlogged homes.

The Horton Avenue Flood Fund, which organizers estimated has raised about $35,000 in money and supplies so far, has provided victims with food and clothing, repaired damaged burners and enabled a few families to return to their homes — all without a dime from the government.

“The fundraising, that has been the only thing that has kept us going,” said Linda Hobson, a flood victim who has also acted as a community organizer for her neighbors. “We’re improving with no assistance from the town or county.”

People from all over the community have been pitching in since the storm, which spanned three days in late March and dumped upwards of eight inches of rain on the region, literally inundating Horton Avenue and the surrounding area.

The largest donation came from H2M, a Melville-based engineering firm that frequently works in Riverhead Town. The company was scheduled to present flood victims with a $25,000 donation at Town Hall today, Thursday.

The Riverhead GOP hosted a fundraiser last month at Martha Clara Vineyard in Riverhead that raised just under $5,000. Riverhead Democrats donated $500 and state Assemblyman Marc Alessi has hosted two food and clothing drives for the victims.

A plain white T-shirt emblazoned with a blue Horton Avenue street sign, designed by Riverhead High School junior Drew Achilich, is being sold at the school. To date, nearly 400 shirts have been sold, raising over $3,000 more for the fund.

“It’s wonderful,” Drew said of helping flood victims. “It’s the greatest feeling in the world.”

Drew and his father, Steven, who owns a promotional advertising agency, have approached a few area stores about selling the shirts as well. Steven Achilich said that so far, all the shop owners they’ve approached have agreed. “We ran out of shirts,” he said. “We had to reorder twice.”

The shirts are $10 apiece and are available in sizes small through XXXL.

Drew said the shirts will be available at Bean Bagel Cafe on Route 25 in Calverton, where he works on weekends, as well as various other stores throughout the Riverhead area.

Still, Ms. Hobson said, victims need more funds and there are seven families still in need of a permanent homes, including herself.

Marie Trent, who lives with her husband, Porter, next to Ms. Hobson’s home, said the couple spent a fortune fixing their water heater and oil burner after they found their basement filled completely with water.

“It took quite a chunk out of our savings,” Ms. Trent said.

Ms. Trent said that she’d received some assistance at the hands of Ms. Hobson, though she declined to say exactly what kind of help she received. In her situation, she added, every little bit counts. “If someone gives you $5, it helps,” she said.

Shirley Coverdale, who sits on board of directors of the Long Island Organizing Network, and her church, First Baptist Church of Riverhead, has overseen the flood fund. She said that the people of Horton Avenue need a long-term housing solution. She said those homes need to be relocated or the town and county need to team up to buy nearby land where flood victims can rebuild.

“That is an area that should have never been built on,” Ms. Coverdale said. “The swamp is trying to reclaim that land and eventually I believe it is going to win.”

Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) has said he will fight for federal mitigation assistance that would fund solutions like elevating homes in flood areas and facilitate community buyouts of those homes, so individual homeowners could then use the money to relocate.

“People have been giving clothing and food,” said Ms. Coverdale. “But you got to have some place to put it.”

Ms. Hobson, who also works full-time as a social worker, said caring for everyone else on her street is beginning to take its toll on her. Still, she remains optimistic.

“Lately I haven’t been able to do a lot for myself,” she said. “That’s OK, I know a better day is coming.”

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