Six Weeks After Superstorm, Big Brothers Big Sisters Is Now Fully Operational

BOHEMIA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — It was a milestone day Wednesday for a Long Island charity organization devastated by Superstorm Sandy.

It’s now back in the business of helping others after needing some help itself.

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Sandy hit the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Long Island hard. The cinder block walls of its Islandia donation warehouse caved in.

“The wind was so strong that it actually flipped a third of the roof over,” said Susan Samaroo, of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Long Island.

Warehouse manager Joe Rosati told CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff, “I opened the door and I looked up and all I saw was the sky — no wall.

The charity’s entire warehouse containing toys, clothing and household goods, which are normally sold to thrift shops for funding, were buried under rubble.

The loss was especially difficult at their busiest time of the year when holiday donations are needed for the hundreds of  children they serve — many of whom lost homes in the storm.

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“We tried to figure out how we’re gonna move on from here. We can’t afford to really be out of business for too long,” said Samaroo.

Six weeks later, the organization is fully operational. Its call center is soliciting donations, which are up. Holiday gifts are pouring in for the children and now a temporary warehouse has just opened.

Volunteers, who are grappling with their own recovery, are still donating time.

Linda Speziale is a Big Sister. She lost her cars and the ground floor of her house, but hasn’t lost her connection to her 10-year-old little sister.

“We built a gingerbread house, we go ice skating, we bowl,” said Speziale.

Big Brother Big Sisters of Long Island plans to rebuild its warehouse, but in the meantime, it is still picking up 200,000 pounds of donations per week.

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Donations can be sent by texting BIG to 80100 to make a $5 donation or go to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Long Island at