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Community steps up to help those affected by Hurricane Sandy

Roger Haskins III takes packages of donations from Mike Di Giglio outside Di Giglio's Liverpool home. The donations are being loaded onto a truck bound for Rockaway, N.Y., one of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy.

Roger Haskins III takes packages of donations from Mike Di Giglio outside Di Giglio's Liverpool home. The donations are being loaded onto a truck bound for Rockaway, N.Y., one of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy. Photo by Sarah Hall.

— It started small.

Mike Di Giglio, a Rockaway native, wanted to bring some supplies down to his family, who had lost one house and seen damage to another after Hurricane Sandy, so he posted something to his Facebook page reaching out for donations and looking to fill up his Jeep.

By the next day, the living room and dining room of his Liverpool home were so full of donations that he and his wife, Melanie, couldn’t walk through the rooms.

Di Giglio, realizing he was onto something, reached out to his friends and Verizon co-workers, Brian Borchik, Don Locke and Jim Dunn. Together, they created a page called Operation Sandy Relief on Monday, Nov. 5, with the goal of collecting more goods to take down later in the week. By Friday, Nov. 9, when volunteers loaded up a rented truck (offered at a discount from Ryder) and left for Rockaway, the Di Giglios’ house was again so full they couldn’t clear a path. The Operation Sandy Relief page has almost 400 likes, and more trips to the New York area are planned for the future.

“So many people have seen what’s going on, and so many people know someone who’s down there and going through it, and I think it gives them a personal connection,” Borchik said. “Everybody that hears about it, no question, they want to help.”

Since the Facebook page went up, the donations have poured in. In just four days, the community has offered up everything from clothing to canned goods to sleeping bags. Donations included a brand-new-in-the-box stroller, a $500 generator and more.

And it’s not just individuals and families. Corporate donations have poured in, as well.

“[Cosco] donated cookies today — a thousand cookies,” Borchik said. “Sysco donated about 40 cases of food and they gave us cost on everything else we bought. Mazzye’s Meat Market helped us out. Empower Federal Credit Union gave us $1,000. Terell’s Potato Chips. CWA 1114 and 1152, 1123, which is what we’re all members of. The list of companies that donate is just gigantic. Every time I walk in here, there’s more stuff. Company called Bimbo Bakeries, they make all the bread for Freihofer’s, Price Chopper, Wal-Mart — that was a connection through someone I’ve never even met. We called them up and we went there today. The whole front of this truck is loaded up with bread, rolls, snack cakes. We just went to pick up the rolls — 2,500 rolls — and the lady says, ‘That whole wall, you can take it all.’”

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