The damage was so bad Janet Marchese said she couldn't look away.
While checking on a friend in Queens shortly after Hurricane Sandy battered the region, Marchese said she couldn't keep her mouth closed as she looked at the damage—her jaw just kept dropping.
"It's a disaster," she said. "I don't even have the word, I don't even know if it's in the language of the dictionary to describe how bad it is."
After driving around the neighborhood and viewing some of the damage, Janet and her husband Lou Marchese decided they couldn't just walk away. They returned home that night to White Plains with a plan; the couple would buy food and warm clothes and return the next day and hand them out.
That was seven days ago. The couple has returned to neighborhoods like Broad Channel, Howard Beach and Long Beach every day since.
The Marchese's said organizations like the Red Cross and Salvation Army are there in full force. But Janet said their stations aren't mobile enough to reach people in need at their doorsteps.
"Frankly, the people can't get there," Janet said. "Their cars are gone, they are trying to stay warm, they can't walk that far, they can't get gas if they do have a car—it's a vicious circle just going around and around."
It's for that reason the Marchese's have loaded up their SUV every day this week and will continue into the weekend. Janet said they have found people on some streets that haven't spoken to anyone else since the storm.
"It's so big, it's insurmountable to even imagine," Janet said. "As you drive along in your car you realize the tremendous area that this hit, it's huge."
While the daily carloads have made an impact, Janet decided this week to extend their outreach to the community. Someone has donated a bigger truck to carry more donations. Students at Port Chester Middle School are gathering hats, gloves and mittens that will go toward the cause.
Today the Marchese's will be at their home at 31 Sparrow Circle in White Plains from 12 to 5 p.m. to collect items from anyone with something to spare.
"There's a lot of people that want to do, but they don't know what to do, they don't know how to do it," Janet said. "We're just trying to give them a little bit of direction."
Janet provided a list—posted below—of items people are in particular need of. They hope to gather enough to fill a truck this weekend before returning to Staten Island and Queens.
So far, Janet said the feedback from the community has been incredible. A post on Facebook has been passed around the community and momentum for the project continues to build.
"People want to do things," Janet said. "We're delighted."
Janet Marchese provided the following list of items:
- Work gloves
- Construction masks
- Hand warmers
- Construction garbage bags
- Batteries of all kinds
- Hats, gloves and scarves
- Hand sanitizer
- Cleaning supplies
- First aid kits
- Advil or Tylenol
- Band aids
- Granola bars
- Power bars, pop tarts and any kind of food that does not need heating or water.
- Gatorade, water or juice packs that do not need refrigeration
- They have specific clothing needs, specifically hats, gloves, scarves, sweatshirts, hoodies, new socks, rubber boots and warm jackets for men and woman