Six months after Oklahomans sent supplies to help New York residents battered by Hurricane Sandy, New Yorkers are returning the favor.
New York Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder came Wednesday to the state Capitol to tell lawmakers that volunteers in his district are filling trucks with blankets, food and supplies that are scheduled by the weekend to start heading for Oklahoma.
“This is our way of paying it forward,” Goldfeder told The Oklahoman. “We only survived because of the kindness of strangers from across the country and it's our job to find a way to give back.
“New Yorkers are so used to giving, we're very rarely on the receiving end,” he said. “In this instance we really needed support and the residents of Oklahoma were there for us, and the residents of Queens are going to be there for Oklahoma.”
After Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc in late October, one of the first batches of food and supplies to arrive in his district came from Oklahoma, he said. His district is in southwest Queens and includes the neighborhoods of Ozone Park, Lindenwood, Howard Beach, Broad Channel and the Rockaways.
“We're going to stand with Oklahoma until you're back on your feet,” he said.
About 85 percent of his constituents had homes destroyed either by floodwaters or by fire, he said.
More than 200 homes burned to the ground because firefighters couldn't get past the floods to get to the fires. More than 5 feet of water flooded his home, causing his family to be displaced for several months.
“The communities I represent saw unimaginable damage,” Goldfeder said. “We took it upon ourselves to rebuild and get the relief that was necessary. I can share some insight with some of the folks who are doing some of the work and hopefully share some of the information that I learned over the last six months to really make a difference in the towns that were affected in Oklahoma.”
Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, R-Moore, planned to take him to parts of Moore flattened by Monday's tornado.
Goldfeder was meeting Wednesday night with Matt Cantrell, of Crescent, who helped coordinate sending supplies to New York in November.
‘Its good to step up and help'
Goldfeder is arranging for the supplies to be sent to Cantrell, who will coordinate with local officials in distributing them.
Contacted by phone, Cantrell said he and friends donated three carloads of supplies to a relief effort that stopped off in downtown Oklahoma City before heading to the Rockaways.
“It was such a disaster up there and it didn't seem like they were getting help that they needed,” Cantrell said. “These things are tragic, unavoidable. For the good of humanity, it's good to step up and help people that need it.”
Cantrell, 33, said after the tornadoes struck Oklahoma this week he used social media to contact some of the volunteers in New York.
“They immediately started gathering supplies,” he said.
A truck loaded with supplies left Tuesday from the Bronx and another truck is scheduled to leave Thursday from Staten Island, Cantrell said. Possibly two more trucks will leave this weekend.
Cantrell said Goldfeder's visit is “a complete surprise.”
Cantrell, who is in the oil and gas business, said he plans to distribute the supplies to each of the communities struck by tornadoes, including Moore, Newcastle, Carney, the Shawnee area and a section of south Oklahoma City.
“It means so much coming from Hurricane Sandy victims, people that suffered and had their lives turned upside down,” he said. “In many cases they're still recovering from the storm.”