Hurricane donations may shift from Houston to Florida

A sampling of the goods donated to state Sen. Elaine Phillips office. (Photo courtesy of state Sen. Elaine Phillips' office)

Temple Israel in Great Neck exceeded its expectations when it came to getting donations for Hurricane Harvey victims, representatives said, potentially exceeding the response to Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Laura Gal, the chairwoman of the Chesed Connection committee that organized the drive, said people had gone to Costco and dropped off “whole boxes” of soap, diapers, baby formula and other goods. The piles ended up many feet high, with some goods having to be temporarily locked in closets.

“I think we may have actually had more items delivered this time, they just weren’t as bulky,” Gal said.

“I was absolutely amazed. I didn’t even know where to begin,” Gal added.

The idea of collecting items originated in Chesed – or “acts of love and kindness” in Hebrew – Connection, a committee seeking to help communities in need. Originally the items were meant for U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi’s office, but because trucks left before Temple Israel’s drive ended, the goods were redirected to state Sen. Elaine Phillips’ office.

Phillips’ drive is in partnership with Island Harvest, a Long Island-based hunger relief organization, and mayors throughout the North Shore. Nearly three dozen village halls have been collecting goods to help Hurricane Harvey victims.

But with Hurricane Irma having slammed Florida after wreaking havoc in the Caribbean, drive organizers said some of the donations may be redirected.

“Our original plan for the whole drive was to send everything we collect to Houston,” said Stephen Romano, the communications director for Phillips and a former Blank Slate Media reporter.

Don Miller, a spokesman for Island Harvest, said the group was collecting for both Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma victims. The larger efforts, he also noted, are being coordinated nationally by the nonprofit Feeding America.

“It’s really donor specific,” Miller said. “Anything that’s not classified will go to Feeding America and distributed according to need.”

“I get the sense people who are donating are donating to help people out, no matter where they are,” Miller added.

As for Temple Israel’s drive, Gal said that she is interested in extending or restarting it for the new victims. But with the annual high holiday food drive slated to start soon, it’s something she will have to discuss with Chesed Connection.

Phillips’ office will be accepting goods until Friday. The most needed items include water bottles, nonperishable food, baby food, formula, diapers, toiletries and cleaning supplies.



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