Written by Christy Hinko Friday, 12 August 2011 00:00
Levittown’s shoppers may have noticed an unusual number of collection drives outside local supermarkets and inside Levittown’s Old Navy considering it is not the traditional holiday season. This whirlwind of midsummer collection drives over a four-day span led to a U-haul trailer and the back of a Suburban full of nonperishable food, toiletries, clothing, and furniture and an additional $1,100 heading from Levittown to Joplin for the victims of the May 22 tornado that devastated the Missouri town.
The Levittown Kiwanis Club Board funded the U-Haul trailer rental fee and paid for gas, based on a proposal from Levittown Kiwanians Immediate Past President Lisa Santer and Service Leadership Chair Rich Santer who offered to personally finance the remaining road trip expenses for the relief effort.
With the help of Levittown Kiwanis President Ann Torcivia, who is the owner of Friends Travel, all the travel arrangements were made.
Long Island Circle K Lt. Governor Lauren Sacks offered a Kiwanis Pediatric Trauma Kit that her division received after donating $1,000 raised during their Egg Scramble in April to the KPTC at North Shore-LIJ to the Metro Emergency Transport System in Joplin.
With less than two weeks before their date of departure, the Kiwanians along with Long Island Circle K Lt Governor Lauren Sacks and her Executive Assistant Distinguished Immediate Past Governor Rickie Santer scrambled to schedule a series of food and clothing drives at local supermarkets and the Levittown Old Navy clothing store.
With support from Levittown Kiwanians, Division 6 Key Clubbers, the Bowling Green K-Kids and the Circle Kers from the Long Island Division, word went out calling for donations and volunteers to staff the food and clothing drives.
The response from the Levittown community, Circle Kers from all over the New York District and Kiwanians throughout the Long Island South Central Division was truly amazing. In just four days, enough relief items to fill a 5x10 foot trailer as well as cash donations in excess of $500 were collected.
The U-Haul was loaded on Wednesday, July 20 and the Santer family, Circle K Lt. Governor Sacks and Levittown Kiwanis President Torcivia departing for Joplin, Missouri the following evening.
The group made a brief stop at Kiwanis International Headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana Friday for lunch and to meet with President Scott Pennington and Executive Director Stan Soderstrom.
On Sunday, Pennington, Lt. Governor Don Davis and Mo-Ark Kiwanis District Governor Barb Thompson met the Levittowners at Joplin’s Metropolitan Emergency Transport Systems (METS) Headquarters where the Circle Kers presented the pediatric trauma kit to David Evans who is a supervisor for the all-volunteer not-for-profit ambulance corp, a Kiwanian and a director for the Salvation Army.
Evans also served as a director for the Salvation Army’s efforts at the World Trade Center following 9/11. The full circle of New Yorkers in Joplin to help his hometown deeply moved Evans.
Evans was thrilled to accept the kit explaining how needed the equipment was due to the high number of injuries being sustained by children due to the remaining debris from the tornado. He also inquired about the Kiwanis Pediatric Trauma Foundation at North Shore-LIJ and the trauma kit program.
“Through our partnership with the Levittown Kiwanis Club, we were able to get the kit to Joplin. We believe this is the first KPTC trauma kit to be donated to an ambulance corps outside New York State,” commented Sacks.
The group then moved over to a relief distribution center run by the Joplin Chapter of the Salvation Army. Here the U-Haul and Suburban were unloaded. As boxes of food and bags of clothing filled the large room, tornado victims began to enter looking for assistance. President Torcivia responded to a hungry little boy by giving him snacks from the car and a Dino-Ride-On toy. His smile was worth all 2,000 miles of the road trip.
When the unloading was complete, the large room was more than two-thirds full with relief items. Although the New Yorkers had all helped pack the trailer, no one could believe how many items had been stuffed in.
After being thanked by the Salvation Army Captain in charge of the distribution center, President Torcivia presented a check for $1,100 to Joplin Kiwanis President Pennington asking that he use the money to buy whatever was needed most.
Torcivia told those assembled in Joplin, “Kiwanis is about helping others. However, this time some of the others were Kiwanians in need. I cannot think of a better way to spend a weekend than helping fellow Kiwanians and fellow Americans in need.”
Circle K DIPG Santer said, “I wish we could stay to help in the clean-up or distribution of the relief items. There is just so much that needs to be done here.”
After dropping off the U-Haul trailer and donating the hitch to the Kiwanis Club of Joplin, the Levittown Kiwanians were taken on a tour of the area affected by the tornado.
Pennington told heart-wrenching stories of loss and destruction as well as inspiring tales of heroism, hope, generosity and gratitude.
“Seeing the families digging through the wreckage that was once their home looking for their personal effects brought tears to our eyes and the total devastation was mind-boggling,” recalled Levittown Kiwanis Service Leadership Chair Santer.
Members of the Levittown Kiwanis Club contributed to this article.