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Massapequa Rallies To Upstate Cause

Charity work delivers clothes, food and books to little Pratsville

It has been over a year since Hurricane Irene paid an inhospitable visit to Long Island, causing, at the worst, inconveniences that lasted no longer than a week at most.

Other portions of New York State had it far worse, especially rural counties upstate. For the past year, the Massapequa spirit has been at its best, performing yeoman-like charity efforts to the small town of Pratsville.

One Massapequa family, the Sianis, have family roots in Pratsville. Plus, Pratsville, according to Massapequa resident Lisa Zampolin, was hit much harder than expected by the hurricane. The damage was so extensive that even Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited the town, calling on New Yorkers to rally behind their least fortunate citizens.

“It was heart-warming to see the amount of donations at the school, fire house, and command center in town,” said Kerin Siani.  “But, it was also very sad to think of the overwhelming need that they represented.”

So, Massapequa residents sprang into action. A “Rebuild Gilboa” fund, one named for the local school district, was established. Public school students chipped in, donating dollar bills with such theme days as team jerseys, mismatched clothing, crazy hats and crazy hair. By last December, more than 150 coats, plus 300 toys and numerous books were flown from Long Island to Pratsville.

“While toys and books may not be necessities in life, they go a long way toward maintaining and building the spirit of the children and families who lost everything to raging flood waters,” Ms. Siani added.  “It also represents the ongoing commitment our community made to helping this area with continued building following the initial reaction to the disaster.”

The charity drive, Ms. Zampolin said, was due not to committees or task forces, but rather to old-fashioned grass roots operations and word-of-mouth, with local PTAs and Boy Scouts becoming driving forces.

“As with all good networking, one contact led to another,” said Ms. Siani.  “There were amazing people I communicated and became acquainted with along the way who wanted to help.”

After a year of charity work, the results remain astounding. For The Massapequan Observer, Ms. Zampolin compiled her own timeline: In September, 2011, an emergency drive of donated necessities, such as personal hygiene items, food and clothing, was delivered by UHaul to Pratsville. In October 2011, a garage sale raised $500 selling excess clothing from the September community donation drive. In November 2011, a coat drive took place, while in December, a toy drive collected 300 items and a second delivery took place to deliver the coats and toys.

Finally, in the spring of 2012, the Sianis visited the region, delivering more than 4,000 used books for local libraries. The Rebuild Gilgoa fund, meanwhile, has grown to such maturity that the IRS now recognizes it as a 501(c)3 public charity entitled, “Giving Children Community Support.” After more than a year of giving to Pratsville, the charitable folk of Massapequa plan to continue their efforts.