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Superstorm Sandy left millions without power and caused billions of dollars in damage. And to no one’s surprise, Legion family members stepped up to help out those affected by the disaster. The following are just some of those stories. Those of you with other stories to tell, please email The American Legion.
American Legion Post 94, Babylon, N.Y.
Following the storm, the post opened itself up as a community center, providing three meals a day to those without shelter or power. The post has worked with the Babylon Village Chamber of Commerce to make sure those in their community are taken care of during this difficult time.
The post served meals of hot dogs, hamburgers and fried chicken, and even fired up the grills for ribs and pork roasts.
"We’ve also been collecting food for people, and we’ve been collecting things like cleaning supplies," said Post 94 Commander Armen Enkababian. "We’re also serving as a warming center for people. We’ll probably stay open for this until the end of the week, then close down so we can get ready for Veterans Day – where we’ll also serve a meal."
The post also placed a call on its website for volunteers to help area residents clean up their homes suffering flood damage, as well as volunteers to deliver food and water to the area. The post also is serving as a collection point for blankets, jackets and other winter clothing.
"These are our neighbors, and we’re a very community-based organization," Enkababian said. "We believe it’s important as a community to take care of your own."
Queens County, N.Y.
Queens County Commander David Valentin said Legionnaires in the area immediately initiated a phone tree to reach out to the county Legion leadership and posts to determine who was affected by Sandy. Legionnaires in the area then began distributing MREs and water to those in need, including the Rockaway and Broad Channel area where four posts were impacted: Daniel M O’Connell Post 272, Far Rockaway Post 423, Broad Channel Post 1404 and Breezy Point Post 1847. Valentin, Queens County Adjutant Paul J Schottenhamel and others personally visited several areas to ascertain damage.
Valentin went door to door to check on older Legionnaires in the area. If they weren’t home, he left his business card. He also dug out an American flag and Legion flag from his garage to take to Broad Channel to replace the flags that had been lost. "I thought it was important for people to see the flags flying there despite all this," he said.
Food was collected, donated by area residents; Broad Channel rebounded from being without power to becoming a major distribution center for the area for food and supplies.
"When we’d bring in supplies (to the affected areas), I’d tell the people there, ‘Don’t worry. No one’s forgotten about you,’" Valentin said. "When I got back to the people bringing in the supplies, I’d tell them, ‘They really appreciate what you’re doing.’ It sort of reinvigorated both sides."
Legionnaires also made sure to get the word out about the Legion’s National Emergency Fund (NEF), which provides money for Legion members impacted by natural disasters. Valentin also established the Queens County American Legion Relief Fund to supplement the NEF payments to the neediest posts and Legionnaires.
"Situations like this bring out the best in people," Schottenhamel said.
Pennsylvania's Ninth District
Shortly after Sandy made landfall, Sons of The American Legion squadrons in the Ninth District were contacted to see if any members had boats available to help with evacuation efforts. The squads came up with two boats, which were used to evacuate stranded motorists from flooded intersections in the Bensalem and Fort Washington areas until the batteries in the boats’ trolling motors ran out.
Using short-wave radio, the members listened to find out where rescue efforts were most needed, and after AutoZone donated batteries to keep the boats going, another 16 people were taken to safety – bringing the total to 35, along with three dogs.
When SAL Ninth District Commander John Cramsey heard on the short-wave radio that more than 800 people in a trailer park in Hoboken, N.J., were stranded, he and the other SAL members and volunteers directed their efforts toward helping there. They were able to rescue another 51 people, eight dogs, 12 cats and a bird.
Nestle donated water that the volunteers were able to disperse, while the Red Cross provided 100 blankets. Food-collection efforts also resulted in 16 cases of food being distributed. Cramsey also noted that during the efforts, the Ninth District signed up three new SAL members.
Legionnaires impacted by Superstorm Sandy may be eligible for up to $1,500 in grants through the National Emergency Fund; posts affected can get up to $5,000. Click here to find out more.