Since Sandy hit Port Washington, Schreiber High School has transformed from a shelter to a community center.
It’s a place where Port Washington residents are charging their wireless phones and getting in from the cold. And on Wednesday, neighborhood children enjoyed Halloween. All of this is thanks to the efforts of local volunteers. The center is open 8 a.m.-11 p.m. at least until Friday, and likely will stay open through the weekend.
“Already 300-400 people came in to ask questions,” said Rob Seiden, a volunteer running the operation, who is being helped ably by Vivian Moy, Elise May and Ellen and Patrick McCullough. And on Wednesday, from the hours of 6-8 p.m., at least another 200 more strolled in.
This hub originally started out as a shelter ready to take in busloads of people escaping from Storm Sandy’s havoc on the South Shore, especially Long Beach. As it turned out, those residents were accommodated at Nassau Coliseum, and the space in Port Washington wasn’t needed.
On Tuesday, the shelter in Port Washington took in “half a dozen people who slept here and left early,” Seiden said, adding that volunteers provided Red Cross blankets, cots, showers, bathrooms and meals, many provided by Our Lady of Fatima. Sullivan’s Quay and Let There Be Bagels also provided food.
Now that Schreiber is a community center, people needing refuge are directed to the shelter established at Manhasset High School. Rides are provided for those in need. For instance, Chris Shields, principal of Salem Elementary School, drove one 92-year-old resident in need of shelter to the facility in Manhasset.
This is just another example of the residents of the peninsula caring for one another,” said Peter Forman, commissioner of Port Washington-Manhasset Office of Emergency Management. “It’s nice to see hundreds of residents coming out to use the facilities to charge their equipment, to celebrate Halloween, to socialize and reach out to other friends in need."
“This is the typical unselfishness of Port Washington,” Seiden said, noting that much of the effort was from residents.
The Town of North Hempstead, including Councilwoman Dina DeGiorgio, has been very supportive, Seiden said.
Also getting this effort off the ground is Boy Scout Venture Crew 556 under the leadership of Paul Ferguson, student volunteers and Port Washington police.
And orchestrating the Halloween festivities is Vikki Benson, a New York City high school student who was visiting her father in Port Washington. Benson couldn’t get back to the city, and once she learned about the doings at Schreiber, she got busy making Halloween special, putting together activities, and setting up a small movie screening area to show "Monsters, Inc.", "Harry Potter" and more.
“At first, we thought we were getting busloads of kids” from the South Shore, she said. But once Schreiber became a community center, Benson knocked on doors, spreading the word, and organized a group of local teens who otherwise might not have much to do.
The center will stay open at least into the weekend, so long as there is no power. To volunteer, sign up inside the Scrheiber lobby.