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Sandy’s Devastation On Staten Island Prompts Help From Volunteers Near And Far

Remarkable Stories Of The Selflessness Of Strangers Lift Victims' Spirits
Volunteer Robert Servis came all the way from Michigan to help storm victims on Staten Island. (credit: CBS 2)

Volunteer Robert Servis came all the way from Michigan to help storm victims on Staten Island. (credit: CBS 2)

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Superstorm Sandy

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — While Hurricane Sandy brought a lot of heartache, the storm also brought out many people with the biggest of hearts.

The suffering from the superstorm has touched people from all over, including a pair of who drove 16 hours to help the victims.

The dynamic duo of Robert Servis and David Lauer traveled all the way from Ann Arbor, Mich., to help feed the victims of Sandy.

“We started to go door to door in Ann Arbor to a lot of the businesses and the houses and they were donating tons of supplies,” Servis, of Movementforpeace.org, told CBS 2’s Cindy Hsu on Thursday.

For days they’ve been camped out in the hard-hit neighborhood of Tottenville on Staten Island, cooking hot food around the clock.

“I was shocked that they showed up from Michigan first of all. They drove out here to help out,” hurricane victim Ed Cardona said. “It’s been a real inspiration to see people — we don’t even know them — to come over here and to help everyone and anyone who needs a little assistance.”

Servis and Lauer have been taking turns sleeping in a tent and in the van they drove to Staten Island.

“We take three-hour shifts each night. We have to guard the food and we’re open 24/7,” Lauer said. “We have people coming — sanitation, police, firefighters — everyone’s coming at night. They’re freezing, they get dropped off on foot, they need warm coffee, hot food things to just stay going, you know.”

As word got around, local businesses and residents started adding to their supply of donations.

Servis and Lauer said they canvas the neighborhood, finding out who needs what, and personally deliver what they can.

Grace Cascio’s house is flooded. So she’s staying with her daughter and couldn’t believe it when the supplies arrived.

“I never witnessed anything so beautiful. They’re great, I’m telling you. They are some nice people,” Cascio said.

While Servis and Lauer have already been in the Tri-State Area for seven days, they said they plan to stay for as long as they’re needed.

Both volunteers are in contact with local leaders to find out where they’re needed most and plan to move their cooking camp to Midland Beach on Friday.

VIDEO: CBS 2’s Cindy Hsu Reports

Meanwhile, in the Oakwood Beach section of Staten Island, a 24-hour volunteer center that started as two tables and a tent has now expanded to fill up an entire building thanks to two very dedicated brothers, who grew up on Staten Island and now work on Wall Street.

The devastation is bringing Derek Tabacco back to his native borough in a big way. What started with a plea for help over Facebook, is now something else entirely.

“We’ve been sleeping here for the last six days. I went home twice to shower. The phone doesn’t stop ringing now,” Derek Tabacco told CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider.

Derek’s brother, John, is a big part of the relief effort. Every night, he and his friends go door to door with pizzas, soup, and other donated food to make sure everyone in the hardest hit areas have a hot meal.

“You see how happy someone gets at eight o’clock at night to get a hot pie delivered to their front door. Not only do they feel good, but you feel good to know you helped somebody and made their day,” John Tabacco said.

It’s such small gestures that make a big difference in an area of incomprehensible destruction as the stories of survival continue to emerge.

“I was trying to get out. A huge wave came and slammed the front door shut and me and my boyfriend got trapped in and we had to kick out a little window to get out,” said Kim Joyce, of Great Kills. “I swam to a neighbor’s house. I just wanted to live. It was freezing cold, debris was everywhere, hitting me. I was just trying to grab onto anything to survive.”

Now, though, there are people flocking to Staten Island to make sure everyone survives.

“People just show up, they go to Costco, they go to Home Depot and they empty the place out and they come here and we distribute it to the neighborhood,” Derek Tabacco said.

VIDEO: CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider Reports

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