Oct. 29th, 2012 - Superstorm Sandy hit the north eastern coastline hard, sending 45 foot water surges into the streets of the Rockaways, and added to this storm was 35 house fires a couple of blocks away. Most streets had 5 feet of water by dark and most home basements were destroyed by morning. Living through the storm and witnessing the aftermath of destruction was devastating to the community. That night, some nearby residents fled to the BHYC for safety and higher ground as ocean water rose to unprecedented levels. Several local families spent the night together at the club during the storm. By the next morning the water had receded so they could return home ... for some.
And then the recovery began ... since the storm destroyed the BHYC entire electrical system ... solar generators and gas generators were sent to the club. Neighbors contact friends and family for help, community groups organized ...
The BHYC opened their doors and with the help and leadership of an all women organization called Rockaway W.I.S.H., we became the community center for hot food, cleaning supplies, gift cards, pet products, clothing, household supplies and live television. Our area lost power for 33 days so, t.v. was hot commodity.
Days after the storm, groups of volunteers helped dismantle the 2nd floor Meeting Room and Bathroom in order to move the large amount of inventory donated to our community. The 2nd floor became a community store filled with everyday items.
Trucks of supplies from New Hampshire and Vermont arrived. Then more donations from all over the country began coming to the BHYC to be distributed by Rockaway W.I.S.H, to those in our community who needed everyday household items and personnel products that were hard to find.
The Belle Harbor Yacht Club is proud to say, "we never closed". Rockaway WISH secured Hot Food, Supplies and NFL Sunday Football that were readily available to the community by the 1st weekend; post Sandy. Thanksgiving Dinners were served to community residents and volunteers, The producers of the CBS TV show "The Good Wife" sent a larger generator, lights, fuel and manpower so the club would have lights and heat. FEMA had meetings at the club, St. Francis deSales grammar school students would meet at the club and were bused into outside communities so their education would not be interrupted too badly. The BHYC parking lot became a drop off point for 80 destroyed vehicles so NYC Emergency Management could set up a Command Center at St. Francis de Sales Church. The ladies of Rockaway WISH hosted "Light up Rockaway" which provided Christmas decorations and family holiday meals to those who asked. Friends of Rockaway and "CBS The Good Wife" both hosted Recovery Parties at the club to lift "community spirit". Catholic Charities of San Diego sent new clothes, in all sizes, for the community. The website company, Zift-it distributed toys to local children donated by thoughtful people across the globe who cared and wanted the help our families enjoy the holidays and recover as fast as they could.
Volunteer groups and work crews would use the BHYC as a meeting point and collect supplies before they ventured out to homes that needed help or repair. The Church of Latter Day Saints, the Mormons, came in large groups to lend a hand and later, hosted a Christmas Concert for Rockaway families in our dining room. Signs were hung in our streets with messages of hope. People really do care ... we witnessed it.
Thank you for all that cared and helped during our community's hardest time.
Every positive action, by ordinary people had a "ripple effect". Because of them our community recovered faster than expected ... the community is still rebuilding but we're stronger ... we're Rockaway Strong.