LAKE PLACID - "It renews my belief in society." That's how Lake Placid Volunteer Ambulance Squad volunteer EMT Chris Karamitsos termed the local support in the effort to help Long Island's victims of Hurricane Sandy.
"The support that we've had from the community has been amazing," Karamitsos told the Lake Placid News Monday at the ambulance garage on Mill Pond Drive, where the donated items are being stored.
Volunteers from the LPVAS and Lake Placid Volunteer Fire Department have been busy collecting and storing donated supplies until a van and trailer departs on Saturday to bring them to the West Babylon Fire Department on Long Island. The much-needed supplies will be distributed to areas that have been hard-hit by the storm.
The Lake Placid Volunteer Ambulance Squad and Lake Placid Volunteer Fire Department have been collecting supplies from the local community to help Long Island’s victims of Hurricane Sandy. Here members of both agencies pose inside the LPVAS garage with the supplies they have collected as of Monday. Pictured are: Matt Wood, Adam Marshall, Bobby Whitney, Chris Karamitsos, Ron Brennen, John Marshall, Grace Vajda, Brady Hayes, Jen Peryea and Jordan Favro.
Photo/Richard Rosentreter/Lake Placid News
How it began
The local effort to help superstorm victims on Long Island originated through social media, according to 23-year veteran of the West Babylon Fire Department Geraldine Krummenacker, a critical care emergency medical technician at that agency. She said that she saw a message posted on her department's Facebook page submitted by Karamitsos. He asked if there was anything Lake Placid could do to help in the relief effort. It was then that the two stated corresponding - and the local supply drive was born.
Krummenacker said the support from a village hundreds of miles away is "phenomenal."
"It's just breathtaking," she said, adding that although she was familiar with relief efforts, she had never experienced such a local need followed by an avalanche of support. "I've never seen such a thing first-hand."
The effort is being joined locally by the UPS Store and Price Chopper, and those locations have been accepting donations. During the past week, volunteers from the ambulance squad and fire department have been in front of Price Chopper collecting the items.
As they stood next to a fire department van being filled with donated supplies, volunteers said they were amazed at the support by shoppers.
The word amazing was a term repeated often by Karamitsos as he spoke to the News at the LPVAS garage. He described how on several occasions a shopper would exit the store pushing a wagon and holding a plastic bag. He said he would reach for the bag, only for the shopper to say that the wagon full of goods was the donation.
"The support by this community has been amazing," he told the News. "Even visitors have been making donations. It's just been amazing."
Support even came in the form of sweet treats on one weekend. On Sunday, Nov. 11, a manager from Dunkin Donuts in Saranac Lake sat in front of Price Chopper giving away free coffee, hot chocolate and donuts. David Waugaman, the general manager of the eatery, explained that free treats like donuts go a long way in generating a giving spirit.
"And we have more donuts on the way," he laughed.
Donuts weren't the only item on the donation menu. According to Karamitsos, several hotels in Lake Placid have donated bedding, towels, soap and other items. He said one hotel even offered television sets if there was such a need.
"It's really been amazing," he said. "This community really has come through. I give kudos to the entire community."
Krummenacker also praised the Lake Placid community. She sent the following email to the Lake Placid News late Wednesday afternoon:
"I am overjoyed by the outpouring of support and generosity from the people of Lake Placid to help out here on Long Island after Super Storm Sandy. We have so much devastation here but what puts smiles on our faces and in our hearts is the support and love we are receiving from people like you.
It is overwhelming to be on the receiving end of people we don't know to give generously to the people who have lost everything from this storm. Your donations will be put to good use to help the people who are struggling to put their lives back together again.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the help of the members of Lake Placid Fire Department and the Lake Placid Volunteer Ambulance Squad for organizing this drive and to the people of Lake Placid for all their help from the people of West Babylon and Lindenhurst, Long Island."
Supplies still needed
Krummenacker also told the News there is still a great need for superstorm victims in their area. She said the greatest need is cleaning supplies.
"Anything that will help with the cleanup," she said. "Items that are in demand are bleach products, work gloves brooms and paper towels."
Krummenacker said donations will be distributed mainly to areas is close proximity that have been hit bad by the storm.
"West Babylon wasn't really hit that bad, but other areas close to us were hit hard. Areas such as Lindenhurst still need help," she said, adding that when supplies arrive to West Babylon, a coordinated effort will be made to get them to areas that need them most.
Krummenacker stressed that there is no longer a need for clothing.
One local resident said he is not surprised at how Lake Placid has stepped up to the plate in its Sandy relief effort. Jeff McLean is the owner of the UPS Store in Lake Placid, which is supplying the cargo van and 10-foot trailer to transport the donated supplies to Long Island.
"I think it's been a terrific effort," McLean said. "Honestly, I expected nothing less. I've seen how everyone here pulled together to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. I really expected nothing less (from this community)."
Karamitsos said that this effort demonstrates that organizations such as the ambulance and fire departments can, and do, have a far-reaching ability to help others.
"We are used to helping the people we are contracted to, those in the community," he said. "But this shows that we can go beyond our borders."