A group of Lakeland Central School District teachers, staff and their families recently traveled to the Rockaways in Queens to help Hurricane Sandy victims with relief efforts.
Zenobia Kellock, a Somers resident and second grade teacher at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, said a group of about 17 people went down to Beach 113th and Roackaway Beach Boulevard.
"It was a wonderful experience," she said. "We wanted to do something more than just collect items. I think living by example is a great way to teach and inspire others."
After seeing the devastation on the news, with the help of United for the Troops, Kellock and Lakeland Copper Beech Middle School teacher Camille Parisi organized for the group to travel to the hard hit area.
They served more than 500 hamburgers, 600 hot-dogs, 300 bagels donated from JV Bagel and many baked goods, gave out donations and helped out with the clean up of some of the homes.
"It really was wonderful and I am so happy to have been a part of it," Kellock said. "If you can believe it, I would say we served food to almost 1,000 people!"
Kellock said they worked through United For the Troops with the help of founders Jim and Pat Rathschmidt who set up a location for them and volunteer.
"The destruction was awful – sand, water damage, the smell of mold everywhere," Kellock said. "Also, this damage then in turn caused fires, which is around where we were. There was hardly anything left from buildings. People were shoveling sand out of their living rooms. Garage and debris everywhere. Just awful."
But it was a little girl named Hope who made the biggest and perhaps the saddest impression, the elementary school teacher said. The 8-year-old girl lived just a few blocks down from where the volunteers were.
"Hope came over to us and wanted to help serve her fellow neighbors," Kellock said. "She jumped right in to help hand out bagels to others and then asked us if we would be back to help again. It was amazing to see that although there was such devastation around her, she was ready and willing to help others."
Hope was among a number of small children who were going to shelters or to severely damaged homes, Kellock said.
"I have young children of my own and couldn't imagine how the parents feel," she said. "How they couldn't give them a warm, dry and safe place to sleep at night?"
Lakeland schools staff members who were part of the volunteer efforts included Zenobia Kellock and her husband Scott; Marybeth Guyett (Thomas Jefferson nurse); Nancy Fletcher (Thomas Jefferson physical education teacher) and her daughter and daughter's friend; Kathy Mills-Hastings (Van Cortlandtville Elementary School teacher) and her two sons; Pat O'Dell (district office staff member) and her husband and their two daughters and their husband and boyfriend; Camille Parisi and her husband; and Michelle Reuter (middle school teacher), Susan Wolf and a few other community members.