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Hurricane Sandy: Pawleys Island sends money to hard-hit area

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A $58,500 donation from the town of Pawleys Island to a community group in New York will help victims of one of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy last month.

Town Council agreed last week to donate $100 for each of the 585 dwellings on the island to the Graybeards, a civic group in the Rockaways section of Queens. The group was suggested to the town by Police Chief Mike Fanning, who used to live in the area and who still has family there.

The homes of two of Fanning’s aunts were damaged by water, homes where repairs were just completed after Hurricane Irene last year. His grandfather’s house may be condemned, he said.

“It’s been frustrating to be here and not able to help,” Fanning said. But his family told him bluntly, “don’t come. You’ll be more of a hindrance.”

So Fanning, a former New York City cop, worked with other retired police in this area to pack three trucks with relief supplies and send them to the Rockaways, a narrow peninsula near the entrance to New York harbor.

“People are starting to get loaded up with stuff,” Fanning said.

But until they are able to get insurance payments, people need help with the recovery, he said.

Mayor Bill Otis checked with the town attorney about giving money. “There’s not really any law,” he was told, but if challenged the town would have to show that the donation was in its best interest.

“We’ve been hammered like this before,” Otis said. “I think we could make a case.”

The Graybeards was started as a men’s basketball league, but its mission changed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center. Many of the residents of the Rockaways are police and firefighters. Over 50 died in the attacks.

But as a coastal community, it has a lot in common with Pawleys Island, Fanning said.

Council Member Sarah Zimmerman recommended giving $100 for each house on the island.

Council Member Mike Adams suggested polling property owners by e-mail, but Otis said after three years of collecting addresses, only about half of the owners can be reached that way. Besides, they just got a solicitation from Don’t Box the Neck to oppose construction of a big-box retail store on Highway 17.

Otis said he feels comfortable sending a donation on behalf of the owners.

“We’ve been supported ourselves in the past,” he said.

Students send aid to Brooklyn

Students at Waccamaw Elementary School helped fill a truck with supplies for hurricane victims in Brooklyn. It left last week for the Garritsen Beach Volunteer Fire Department.

“The children went home and told their extended family,” said Sharon Hughes, the school nurse, who helped coordinate the effort. “Grandparents spread the word.”

Allston Plantation residents contributed a truckload of their own to the items the students brought in, she said.

The idea started with a grandparent, Joseph Benecke, a retired captain with the Gerritsen Beach department who lives in Litchfield. He has grandchildren at the elementary school, Hughes said.

Bedding and coats were the most needed items, the school learned. But the items that filled an empty classroom included clothes and nonperishable foods and even pet food, Hughes said.

“We had a really good response from the students,” she said.

The school plans to stay in touch with the fire department.

Midway firefighter back from N.Y.

Lt. Henry Hulit of Midway Fire Department at DeBordieu has returned from a two-week deployment to Garden City, N.Y., with the South Carolina Disaster Medical Assistance Team.

The group is part of a national disaster assistance team operating through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Hulit provided first-aid for people living in a Red Cross storm shelter at Nassau County Community College.

“We got there eight days after the storm,” Hulit said, “and people were still trying to get used to their new routine: wake up, secure your belongings under your Red Cross cot, get a meal and figure out what you were going to do that day.”

He said some homeowners were being allowed to return to their property, often finding only devastation.

Hulit met a Marine on leave who spent a week tearing out the walls of his flooded house only to find it had been condemned. A couple who had lived on Long Island for 56 years had lost everything but their medication and the clothing on their backs. Another couple returned to their beachfront condo and found nothing.

“People needed help working their way back,” Hulit said. “They just needed somebody to listen to their stories.”

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