NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Volunteers across the Tri-State area are spending their Thanksgiving serving others in need and this year, many of those include victims of Superstorm Sandy.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office was coordinating the distribution of 26,500 meals at 30 sites in neighborhoods affected by Sandy and other organizations also were pitching in.

After stopping at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Bloomberg headed to a firehouse in the hard-hit Rockaways area of Queens.

WCBS 880’s Monica Miller reports

On Long Island, the Long Beach nonprofit Surf For All hosted a Thanksgiving event that fed 1,200 people. Carol Gross, 72, a Long Beach native, said she went to volunteer but was turned away because of a surplus of helpers.

“A lot of people like me, old-timers, we’ve never seen anything like this horror,” she said, recalling the destruction.

Gross’ brother, Jerry, who moved to Arizona in the 1960s, was stunned by what he saw when he returned for Thanksgiving.

“To come back and see the boardwalk all devastated like it is, it’s like going to Manhattan and finding Times Square gone,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks, whose New York district includes the heavily battered Rockaways neighborhoods, said he planned to stop by Thanksgiving dinners at three churches and a school.

“They are still giving thanks,” Meeks said of his constituents. “They are thankful that they’re alive and thankful to the people who are coming to help them.”

The national group Family To Family collected $125 per box for ingredients to feed 10 to 14 people. More than 200 boxes were given to families in Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island.

City Meals on Wheels Executive Director Beth Shapiro said that after Sandy, there was a greater need for volunteers.

“City Meals on Wheels rallied 836 volunteers to help us deliver meals and these were not normal meal deliveries. These were deliveries going into buildings without power, climbing flights and flights of stairs in the dark with flashlights and lights from cell phones to get meals where they needed to go.”

For many storm victims, this Thanksgiving has a whole new meaning.

“This year, I’m more appreciative of what I have,” said storm victim Rudy Mienert. “Last year, I had more, but this year more appreciative of what I have which is less.”

“People come with their love and kindness. They want to give turkeys and dinners and it’s all so wonderful but it’s just different,” said storm victim Allison D’Amico. “It’s just different.”

George Alvarez, whose Toms River, N.J., home suffered moderate damage when Sandy hit the coast, said his family usually does “the traditional big dinner” on Thanksgiving. But this year, they chose to attend a community dinner held at an area church.

“This storm not only impacted us, it impacted a lot of our friends, our community, our psyche,” Alvarez said shortly before his family headed out for their meal. “We could have had our usual dinner here at home, but this year it felt like we should be with others who are experiencing the same concerns we are. We made it through this devastating storm and that’s something to celebrate.”

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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