Giving light - Fiddlehead Focus collects flashlights and batteries for hurricane victims

6 November 2012

Fiddlehead Focus needs your help. We have decided to try and send some aid, even in a small way, to the victims of Hurricane Sandy. We are looking for donations of flashlights and batteries. Please bring your donations to the Fiddlehead Focus office in Fort Kent or to Martin's Motel in Madawaska between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. or to the Madawaska Radio Shack. We will ship out what donations we have received on Thursday after noon. 

flashlights and batteries

LONG ISLAND, N.Y./St. John Valley – Former Valley residents are reaching out to those “back home” in the St. John Valley to help them shed a little light in an otherwise dim situation near their current address in West Islip, New York.

Jesse Pettengill, brother of Fiddlehead Focus Editor Monica Pettengill Jerkins, and his wife Shannon Lugdon, whose parents own Lugdon Lodge in Eagle Lake, live on the south shore of Long Island where Pettengill is a pastor at a local Church of Christ. On Tuesday, the couple and their children were on their ninth day without power after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the region and left millions in the dark, but Pettengill said there are people nearby who have things much worse than his family’s situation because their house was spared from the coastal surge flooding.

Pettengill said the night of the storm he kept checking the flooding situation near their house, but the waters only came to within about a hundred feet from their home. His neighbors were less fortunate.

“If you go south of the Montauk Highway - this is the south shore of Long Island - and the north shore of Long Island, the shore of Connecticut, Staten Island, Manhattan…any of those communities that were within several blocks of the shore were inundated with salt water,” he said.

People all along the shore of New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut suffered from wide-spread flooding and power outages. The situation worsened as power flickered back on. Pettengill said salt is highly corrosive, but that also the flood waters became tainted with gases and oils, sewage, garbage, and anything else it could pick up as it overflowed the streets and entered buildings. When power surged on in some homes, it ignited fires – burning over 100 homes in a Queens’ neighborhood. Because of this, power crews are being especially cautious, taking their time to check all of the lines and gas mains before restoring power. Power might remain out in many areas for well over a week longer.

Pettengill is using his position with the church to reach out to the communities in and near where he lives. He said they have been working with other Long Island churches to organize local relief efforts, but that they are in need of supplies of all types. They have a particular need for batteries, and flashlights and/or headlamps.

“We have a 48-foot semi full to the brim coming from Nashville, Tennessee from an organization called Churches of Christ Disaster Relief,” said Pettengill. “The truck itself will have non-perishable food boxes, hygiene boxes, baby boxes, blankets, sheets, pillows, rakes, shovels, work gloves, and cleaning supplies.”

He said though that truckload will be helpful, there are many things people in the area need.

“There was a shortage of a lot of things on Long Island as soon as the storm hit. You couldn’t find a battery anywhere especially size D because they were the most popular flashlight battery. Stores stock these kinds of things, but they don’t have an endless supply,” said Pettengill.

Even figuring out the logistics of how to reach victims with the supplies the church has coming in was problematic.

“We were a bit concerned at first about where we were going to put it all, so I spent the better part of three days trying to find a U-Haul truck or a Pod or anything and there was nothing...and even when we did find something, there was no gas in it so you literally could not drive it out of the parking lot.”

Finally, Pettengill said there was a kind person who owns a vacant warehouse in Lindenhurst which would give them 2,500 sq. ft. of storage in a community that experienced “terrible storm surge flooding” below Montauk Highway. He said the flooding completely destroyed the area.

“One of our members lost their home there,” he said. “So we’ve been in contact with the mayor’s office in Lindenhurst and they are coming up with a list [of those who] could use the assistance. We will be operating out of that warehouse passing out supplies.”

He said that they are cooperating with other local churches to bring relief to hard hit areas as far away as the Rockaways.

“We are working in conjunction with the Patchogue Church of Christ and with the Long Island Church of Christ in Islip,” said Pettengill. “Basically, we’re getting the supplies and housing them, they are going to be coming to us with some trucks to take what they need back to their communities.”

“As soon as the storm hit you couldn’t find a generator anywhere. The only thing I could buy after the storm hit was a bunch of extension cords,” he said. “Those of us without a generator had nothing. No heat. No hot water. No electricity. It got down to 32 degrees the other night. People were sleeping with extra clothes on and families huddled together.”

He said there are no hotel rooms available anywhere on Long Island because as soon as the storm hit people either evacuated to the hotels or the extra rooms filled with relief workers from FEMA or outside utility crews that came to work in the area.

“So even if you have the means to leave your home without power, you couldn’t because there were literally no hotel rooms. To complicate matters, even those with generators ran out of gas in a couple of days and there is no gas available anywhere on Long Island,” he said.

This caused the biggest problems for those who both lost power and flooded because they were without means of removing the tainted and corrosive floodwaters from their homes.

“If your pumps require electricity…or if your generator requires gas, then you can’t remove it. The water’s just sitting there doing damage,” he said. 

Pettengill said the situation is dire, with little relief available in the near future. Any help is welcome and appreciated. It is with this in mind that Fiddlehead Focus decided to help – even if only in a small way.

Fiddlehead Focus will collect flashlights, headlamps, and batteries – particularly size D – until Thursday at noon, after which the organization will send the collected items via overnight mail to West Islip for distribution. Two Madawaska businesses have also agreed to serve as collection points. People wanting to donate batteries, flashlights, or headlamps can also drop them off at Martin’s Motel between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. or at the Madawaska Radio Shack during business hours.

Jamie Voisine at the Radio Shack in Madawaska has already agreed to send what D cell flashlights he has in stock at the store along with the batteries to power them. Fiddlehead Focus set a goal of reaching 20 sets of flashlights and batteries by Thursday at noon. People showed up at the office to make donations within an hour of posting the goal on Facebook Tuesday morning. 

For more information, please contact Monica Pettengill Jerkins at (207) 316-7150. Also, after Thursday, people can still send their donations to Church of Christ, 600 Montauk HWY, West Islip, NY 11795.