Copyright 2016. Portlight Strategies, Inc.
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Coney Island Relief Efforts
In our ongoing efforts to help bring relief to forgotten communities, and particularly to people with disabilities and other health and medical issues, we’ve partnered up with People’s Relief, a grassroots coalition bringing together independent volunteers and groups working to help those affected by Hurricane Sandy. They are currently working in Coney Island, where the needs are far greater than the media is reporting. One of our goals is to bring much needed media scrutiny to the area. We’ll also be helping with medical equipment and supplies, social media networking, and administrative tasks.
We are working night and day to help improve the situation in Coney Island. There are still so many people stranded, without power, water and/or food; missing vital medical treatments like dialysis and chemotherapy; without medications. The situation is dire and in many cases, one of absolute life or death.
Your help is desperately needed! Please give what you can and spread the word! We’ll keep you updated regularly on how your donations are helping to restore the residents of Coney Island. As always, thank you for your continued support!!
There's an article from AM New York today that has all of us at Portlight riled up and ready to go to bat once again for people forgotten by local authorities and other organizations when it comes to disaster preparation and relief.
Each of the stories in this article raises our ire, and gives us renewed energy to continue Portlight's mission. But this one in particular LIT A FIRE UNDER US:
'Crippled in a shooting two years ago, 39-year-old Kenneth Martinez said he never imagined he might die by remaining in his Far Rockaway apartment during Sandy, but insisted he would have left if he were offered a place to stay that could accommodate his motorized wheelchair.
"I knew the storm was coming, but where was I going to go?" he said.
After the lights flickered out, Martinez managed to find a flashlight, but the tide that rushed into his home was ravenous. Filthy, freezing, turbulent water surged up his one leg, then gobbled up his torso. He managed to make a call to his partner, Michelle Medina, pleading for help, but his phone died in the middle of his description of the rising waters.
Medina, who was on Long Island, repeatedly dialed 911 but the three-digit number rang busy or went dead. Then she called 311. Operators there said they'd pass on the information to have Martinez evacuated. Medina also called relatives in NYC begging them to call 311, too, to stress how urgently Martinez needed help.
While his wheelchair remained in the living room, "the water floated me up to the kitchen." He struggled to stay afloat in the rising waters by windmilling his arms. Martinez began banging desperately on the ceiling - now within his reach - with his flashlight.
Hearing the knocks, his upstairs neighbor, Chris Francis, and two other men bashed out a window and rescued him..
"Those good guys upstairs risked their lives to save me," Martinez gratefully recounted. The trio carried Martinez upstairs to a vacant apartment, where he spent two nights swathed in insulation plastic to keep warm, before Medina could return to take him to her mother's house in Levittown. Medina and Martinez, who have two daughters, lost everything they owned. His new $27,000 prosthetic leg was swept away in the receding waters, but the loss most sorely felt for Martinez is his motorized wheelchair, which remains in the apartment but is unsalvageable. "I feel like I'm trapped," said Martinez, who is now facing a frustrating series of bureaucratic hurdles to replace it. "That wheelchair was my legs."'
Portlight is launching a full-on fundraising PUSH to get this man a new power chair AND do whatever we can to see to it that his prosthetic leg is replaced at no cost to him. We know that times are tough, that the holidays are right around the corner, and that a great many of you have already given all you can afford to give. If you're unable to contribute in a monetary way, we ask that you help us get the word out to everyone you know!! As always, thank you so very much for your support of our efforts!!
We're excited to bring you an update on our activities in post-Sandy New York! Working with Jim Mahar and the good folks from Bona Responds, a ramp has been built for young Ryan in Breezy Point, who has cerebral palsy. His dad was having a tough time getting him out of the house, to and from school, after their lift was destroyed. Portlight helped with the lumber, and Bona Responds built the 55 linear feet of ramp. They're doing amazing work, in spite of freezing temperatures and short days. They even hang drywall in the dark!
Many thanks to the Robin Hood Foundation, the Disability Funders Network, the Kessler Foundation, and as ALWAYS, to YOU, for your continued support!! Ryan LOVES his new ramp!!
We are strengthening our network of volunteers, gaining access to materials and supplies, all of which will help us continue our outreach in New Jersey. They are so far behind the rest of the areas affected by the storm, and the needs are so very great. We'll be sharing more stories with you in the coming days, and we hope you'll consider helping in any way that you can.
Thank you for your continued support of our efforts!
The following day, we delivered a new scooter to the home of a lovely lady, known throughout her town as "The Witch", because for years, she dressed up and entertained the local trick-or-treaters as they visited her home on Halloween. When our volunteers politely turned down the tip she offered them, she generously donated a stack of hand-knitted baby blankets, entrusting us to find each of them a good home.
On Saturday, Steve Major spent his birthday in New York City, where he delivered a brand new wheelchair to Faith, who we learned about on Friday evening. Her chair was destroyed as a result of the storm, and she'd been struggling to get around ever since. We're pretty sure Faith was thrilled with her new chair, and Steve says the smile on her face was part of a GREAT birthday!
Our first truckload of medical equipment, driven by volunteer Thomas Hudson, arrived in Toms River, New Jersey on Wednesday, January 23rd. The equipment was offloaded into our warehouse space, and delivery began later that day.
Our volunteers' first stop was at the home of Miss Lu, a wonderful new friend of ours. Miss Lu is very well known in her community, and she's excited to be getting back out amongst her friends and neighbors. Our project manager, Steve Major, is giving some serious thought to applying flame decals to her new "hotrod"!
Vince Sciacca was in a horrific car accident a few years ago, which put him in a coma for nine months and left him with a severe brain injury. Shortly before Superstorm Sandy struck, and after much struggle, he had finally straightened out his equipment needs. The storm came along and destroyed everything. Our project manager, Steve Major, delivered this power chair to Vince on Saturday, and we'll be working with him to replace other equipment, as well.
Stay tuned for more updates as we continue helping the disability community recover and rebuild on the New Jersey shore. As always, we thank you for your continued support of our efforts!!
Diane Daniels is an opera singer whose home was damaged by Sandy. Most of the contents of her home were destroyed, including her scooter, which we were able to replace. More devastating to Diane, though, was the loss of all her sheet music. We're hoping to find a way to perhaps help replace at least some of that for her, too.
Volunteer Rob Pollard delivers a scooter to Angela Bennett, who has spina bifida. Rob also built a step-up platform for Angela to make it easier for her to get into the bed a relative purchased for her.
Portlight has become the "go-to" resource for the FEMA Functional Needs Task Force - New Jersey, for filling their clients' needs for durable medical equipment. At their request, we've established a hotline, with a local area code, to expedite the processing of these requests. We anticipate having a boots-on-the-ground presence in New Jersey for quite some time to come.