NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The holidays will no doubt be difficult in storm- and fire-ravaged Breezy Point in the Rockaways, but residents and volunteers were treated to a very special Thanksgiving lunch on Wednesday.
As CBS 2’s Elise Finch reported, Operation Blessing International from Virginia enlisted a group of volunteers to help serve Thanksgiving dinner Wednesday and Thursday to victims of the storm.
WCBS 880’s Sean Adams reports
Flowers, sparkling cider and turkey dinner with all the trimmings were out on the tables.
“We’ve got whole turkeys that are already roasted, we’ve got turkey breasts that are already roasted,” Operation Blessing president Bill Horan told WCBS 880’s Sean Adams. “A traditional Thanksgiving meal, dressing, sweet potato casserole, green beans, pumpkin pies, peach and apple cobbler for dessert.”
A green military tent is serving as a makeshift dining room. Tables have been set up with orange and yellow floral centerpieces.
“We try to bring a little light into a dark place and these folks are really up against it. They’re beleaguered, they’re tired, a lot of them don’t have insurance. But at least today they’ll have a good, hot turkey meal and maybe in a way it’s giving them a hug,” Horan said.
Residents of Breezy Point said they have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from around the city and around the country.
“We’ve seen them come from all over the United States, we even had the Amish come in here. They were spectacular, the work effort that they put in was absolutely amazing,” a Breezy Point resident told Adams.
Residents said the volunteers from all over have made a huge impact.
“The Amish people came in and helped us and they are beyond belief. They came in and cleaned out my house. They’re just magical people. We’ll never be able to thank them,” another resident told Adams.
Homeowner Christina Kirk was happy for the food, and the break.
“When you’re working in a house with no heat, and you’re freezing, and your body is shivering, so to be able to come up here and have a warm meal is just fantastic,” Kirk said. “It’s just too overwhelming, it’s too overwhelming.”
Operation Blessing International and friends of firefighters joined forces with the National Guard Wednesday to cook and serve 1,000 Thanksgiving meals.
Dozens of first responders call Breezy Point home, and some just came to help.
“We went through Katrina and these people, we know exactly what they’re going through,” said Biloxi, Miss., firefighter Jon Boney. “So it’s special to us to be able to return the favor.”
Others, such as firefighter Joe Napoli, are lifelong residents of the area who were working helping others when Sandy hit. Napoli, of Belle Harbor, lost his house and everything in it.
“It flooded, it burned and it collapsed — everything is gone,” Napoli said. “The only thing we have today is our friends around us and the support from everybody coming down.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo attended the Thanksgiving feast and hailed those who organized it.
“I believe it’s heroic that people put their own well-being aside, literally, to serve others,” he said. “We recognize it, we know it and we appreciate it.”
Organizers of the Thanksgiving lunch said helping the community of first responders has a ripple effect. It ultimately helps thousands of people struggling to recover from Superstorm Sandy.
“There are so many families that really need to know that people haven’t forgotten them over here,” said Nancy Carbone of the group Friends of Firefighters, “and sometimes on a daily basis, it may feel like that.”
“Boardwalk Empire” star Steve Buscemi also came out to drum up more support for all first responders.
“We need to keep them strong, because they are literally our lifeline,” Buscemi said.
Even though the official Thanksgiving meal was Wednesday, volunteers said they will also serve food in Breezy Point on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday.
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