Felicia Mills stood near the front of a long line behind the Red Hook Pentecostal Holiness Church on the morning before Thanksgiving.
She made sure to queue up early after hearing about plans to distribute free stuffing, canned vegetables and other holiday meal staples – as well as water, blankets and other necessities. Mills, a grandmother of four who lives in the Red Hook West Houses, has been without power since Sandy flooded her first-floor apartment last month.
“It’s hard right now, but everyone here has come together,” she said. “It’s awesome seeing these young people who really want to volunteer and help out.”
Mills is among thousands in the storm-battered Brooklyn neighborhood, many of them public housing residents, who have been counting on food and other goods donated by various community organizations and outreach programs.
She was already in line when students from the Boys Town Passages Academy, an alternative public school for youth who have been in trouble with the law, started setting up tables behind the Conover Street church at about 9 a.m.
“Some people were surprised when we said we were going to bring incarcerated kids here,” said Ron Carter, assistant principal of Passages Academy. “But they have been excited all week to come here and they want to give back.”
The youths were among a contingent of volunteers that included students from Long Island University and other schools. For Red Hook residents, many of whom face the challenge of preparing a holiday meal without electricity or gas, the Thanksgiving-eve aid was welcome.
Word of Mouth
Tiffany Watkins, 36, said she’s relied on donated goods since Sandy, but often misses out on opportunities because she doesn’t have a working phone or computer. Up until Tuesday, she’d been without electricity for three weeks in the Red Hook West Houses apartment she shares with her six sons.
“It’s hard because a lot of times you have to hear about these things through word of mouth,” Watkins said as she waited on line. “I wish they could notify people more because money goes fast and I have six sons to feed.”
By 11 a.m., residents started filling their carts with donated goods. Ashley Johnson, a junior at Long Island University, was in charge of handing out cans of tomato sauce.
“I felt so bad because I know I’m going home to a warm, cooked meal,” Johnson said as she stood under a tent that shielded her from an unusually bright late fall sun. “I thought before I go home to my happy dinner, why don’t I try to make someone else’s dinner happy, too.”
Some volunteers said they would be back in Red Hook for weeks to come, even as local businesses start to reopen and life in the neighborhood inches back to normal.
“This is a terrible and sad tragedy, but we need to rally up and unify,” said Jeffery Ulyesse, a volunteer. “We’re in this thing together.”
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