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UPDATE: Riverhead FD Charity Drive on Hold

Following a drive for donated goods that started last week, Riverhead firefighters are putting their call for donations on hold.

Update: Riverhead Fire Department spokesman Bill Sanok said on Tuesday that the fire department's drive for donations is currently on hold, as the Mastic-Shirley area ended up being "overwhelmed with donations" for the hard-hit area on the south shore.

The fire department was able to transport four truckloads of goods down to the area, Sanok said. "There was so much there we were asked to hold off," he added.

Sanok said those looking to help out can still donate gift cards or checks to St. Jude Roman Catholic Church, located at 89 Overlook Dr. in Mastic Beach, or Our Lady of the Island Shrine, at 258 Eastport-Manor Rd. in Manorville.

Original story: In the days following last week's devastating storm to the tri-state area, aid has proceeded to flood all parts of the area in the form of local donations, neighbors helping neighbors, and non-profit groups lending a hand to homes that were hard hit.

But members of the Riverhead Fire Department are focusing on one area closer to home that felt the wrath of Sandy, leaving an estimated 1,000 homes in the area flooded and vulnerable as another storm surge could be possible on Wednesday: the Shirley-Mastic area.

"A lot of local places haven't got the spotlight on them, that they have a need," said Scott Robertson with the Riverhead Fire Department. "So we are going to concentrate our effort toward more local needs."

Bob Vecchio, president of the William Floyd School District – which covers Shirley, Mastic and Mastic Beach – said on Wednesday morning that volunteers were mobilizing to knock on doors and let people know that Mother Nature is aiming at the coastline once again. As a nor'easter makes its way toward Long Island, a coastal flood warning remains in effect in the area until 6 a.m. on Thursday, as well as a high wind warning and high surf advisory.

The communities close to New York City are indeed in need of dire help – Jamesport Fire Department brought a truckload of goods to East Rockaway this week and still has another truck to send out, Chief Duffy Griffiths said on Wednesday.

However, Vecchio said the tri-hamlet area of Shirley, Mastic and Mastic Beach has been somewhat overlooked to an extent – though noted that efforts on the local level have been "nothing short of miraculous."

"Anything east of Lindenhurt, nobody seems to know about," he said. 

Robertson noted that even in the Riverhead area, some Flanders homes have been hit equally hard as well. Brad Bender, president of the Flanders, Riverside, Northampton Civic Association, told Patch earlier this week that at least a half dozen homes have already been condemned, and Robertson said that if the RFD gets the response it is looking for, it will be sure lend a hand to Flanders residents as well.

As far as supplies that could go a long way: "Basically think if someone came and wiped out your home, what kind of stuff would you need to do on a daily basis?" Robertson said.

Cleaning supplies are often overlooked, he said, and toiletries go a long way. And as the weather continues to drop, sleeping bags, blankets, jackets, gloves and hats are in dire need. For those closer to Wading River looking to make a donation, First Assistant Fire Chief Jim Evans said the WRFD is not officially making trips to places in need due to the ongoing efforts closeby, however the department will make sure drop-offs get into the right hands.

According to Vecchio, leaders with several local organizations in the area will be meeting Thursday night to continue working on formulating a short-term, as well as a long-term plan to provide relief to the area.

The damage from Mother Nature comes to an area that, Vecchio said, "sadly, was in tremendous need before the storm."

Vecchio noted that 300 homeless children were enrolled in the school district at the beginning of the school year, so a long-term plan is vital to real recovery.

"We have to harness this energy in an organized fashion," he said Wednesday morning. "Three months when many people's lives are back to normal, we'll still be dealing with people without homes, people trying to put in a new oil burner. We'll still need volunteers a year from now. 

"It's always something you see on the news in a far away place. But until you see it up close and personal, firsthand, you don't appreciate the devastating impact it has on the community."

Donations can be made at the Riverhead Fire Department headquarters on Roanoke Avenue, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 3 p.m., and 6 and 9 p.m. A flyer is attached with additional information from the fire department.

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