RFD halts relief efforts for Mastic, Shirley

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | RFD hurricane relief donations organizer Amanda Starks (right) gets help from volunteers (from left) Jared Polak, 12, and Girls Scouts Troop 1159 members Renee Mott, Nicole Levasseur and Kristal Dewey at Riverhead fire headquarters Friday evening.

The Riverhead Fire Department will suspend its donation drive for Sandy victims after receiving donations faster than they can distribute them to needy residents in Mastic and Shirley, fire officials said.  The department will continue accepting donations until 9 p.m. Wednesday.

Between Riverhead’s donations and other donation drives, the affected residents have received more donations than they expected and are in the process of handing them out.

“They’re just overwhelmed with the stuff we’ve been sending them,” press officer Bill Sanok said. “The community there, they have to stop to take a breath.”

The drive started last week in the wake of superstorm Sandy, a powerful cyclone that knocked out power for thousands of Long Islanders and caused major flooding along the south shore and Peconic Bay. Since then, the fire department has received enough donations to fill four trucks, Mr. Sanok said.

The fire department chose to focus on the Mastic and Shirley areas because they felt the residents there were being neglected, with the majority of relief efforts taking place farther up island.

Residents have donated water, non-perishable food, cleaning supplies, towels, “just about everything,” he said.

At one donation location, a woman walked up with a shopping cart full of supplies, took a small bag from the cart and walked away. When volunteers told the woman she left her groceries, the woman replied that those were her donations. At the Lowes donation site, customers walked out with carts full of water bottles and flashlights, Mr. Sanok said.

“People are really generous and we certainly appreciate everything that people donated,” he added.

The department plans to hold further donation drives in the future once the affected community has distributed the existing donations, he said.

Residents can still donate gift cards or checks to St. Jude Roman Catholic Church at 89 Overlook Drive in Mastic Beach or Our Lady of the Island Shrine, 258 Eastport-Manor Road in Manorville.