Imagine losing everything. No power, no heat, no running water, no house – nowhere to go. I am not describing devastation in a third world country. What I am describing is the destruction and loss in and around one of the world’s most populous cities, New York.
When Super storm Sandy barreled into the northeast, millions prepared, but all you could do is wait to see path of her wrath; I am sure no one on Staten Island felt it would bear down so violently on them. Following the storm, several of us on the Sodexo NY Team coordinated production on 5,000 meals with our vendor partner, Lorenzo Food Group. Though the road trip was a few short miles, it was an emotional journey none of us will soon forget.
The expedition began with a trip to two homeless shelters in the Richmond Terrace and Stapleton neighborhoods – these shelters are extremely taxed at this time with people looking for a meal.
With the support of the Red Cross and a federal agent escort, we arrived safely and began to distribute as much as we could. Our donations were greatly appreciated by leaders of these shelters where many more people have begun showing up for a well-deserved meal.
We then made our way to two emergency stations – one on Father Capodanno Blvd, and another on Guyon Avenue. Father Cap is the road which suffered a direct hit of the storm and what looks to be all but destroyed. As a former Staten Island resident, even though I was seeing it with my own eyes, I could not grasp the devastation which had taken place – it looked more like a Tsunami had washed over the entire area.
The community is riddled with destruction — homes have been leveled, personal belongings are on every sidewalk, and to make matters worse, there is no sign of electricity being restored any time soon. In speaking with police, several residents are afraid to leave their homes as desperation has caused a good deal of looting.
Our trip continued to the emergency station on Guyon Avenue. This was a life altering experience for many of us. The station is actually a home in the neighborhood with a simple generator gassed up and humming away. Here, we witnessed remarkable teamwork by ordinary residents. They were collecting and organizing whatever they could get their hands on – things like cleaning supplies, clothing, baby formula, diapers, food, water and blankets.
We witnessed so many good people….good neighbors who were now hungry, cold, and certainly looking desperate. That said, whether it was neighborhood leaders, elderly or small children, there was no sign of “quit” in these people – they are tough!
Our day began before sunrise and ended well after sunset, but it didn’t matter – the Sodexo team was honored to play a part in assisting our neighbors; after we were just doing what we do every day. You could say it was just another day providing meals to those in need, but it wasn’t; we will be forever blessed with the smiles, handshakes and hugs we received in return.
Sodexo gives special thanks to the following team members: Joanne Martino, Mahlet Tesfatsion, Diane Salamone, Susan Long, Nelson Morales, Joe & Tara Boljonis, Tim Leonard, Lou Dovidio
Tony Mastellone is vice president of operations Sodexo Business & Industry.