What began as a single Facebook shout out to the Tiverton-Little Compton community last Friday has propelled into a continuing effort by the owner of a local surf shop to bring relief aid to a New York neighborhood hard-hit by Hurricane Sandy.
Living Water Surf Shop owner Chuck Barend - along with the Kinane family of Little Compton - helped organize a last-minute fundraiser at Crowther's Food and Drink last Saturday to solicit relief supplies from local residents.
In less than 24 hours, plans to drive a single 16-passenger van of supplies to Rockaway Beach, NY had evolved into a convoy as Tiverton and Little Compton residents responded to the shout out with an outpouring of donations. Within hours it was clear one truck wasn't going to be enough.
"At one point we had really overwhelmed the first drop off with all the food and everything," said Barend. "It was really filled up with hats and mittens and winter coats - and all that stuff is really needed now."
By the time the fundraiser kicked off at Crowther's at 7 p.m., Barend and the Kinane's were no longer just looking for relief supplies, they were looking for for more trucks to help transport them.
"The generosity was overwhelming just to see how much people cared and gave," said Barend. "From a 24-hour Facebook request, we filled three 16-passenger vans, all stuffed full of gear, and two support trucks with everything from bottled water and tremendous amounts of food - and good food too, from health food stores. We had peanut butter, crackers, canned goods, then toiletries, bleach, buckets, mops and brooms."
Hundreds of people from across the East Bay contributed to last week's convoy of supplies, including Tiverton High School.
Sheila Kauffmann, a local parent and guidance counselor at the high school, helped organize a drop-off location at Saturday evening's soccer game at the high school. In two hours, Tiverton High School students, athletes and parents donated enough supplies to fill the bed of the Kauffmann's pickup truck - a win for Rockaway Beach and for Tiverton, after the boy's soccer team won its game 2-0!
The donations keep rolling in since last week's trip, prompting another excursion to the desolated beachfront town that is still without power, heat and running water in the wake of this week's nor'easter.
"The beauty for me is that the surf shop is so slow right now that I would much rather be involved in helping people than sitting in a slow surf shop," said Barend, who is closing his shop to make the treks down to New York. "You lose a little business by not being there all of the hours, but it feels so much better to take my eyes off myself and take care of other people."
Living Water Surf is hosting a cookout tomorrow on Saturday, Nov. 10 from 2-4 p.m. following a coastal cleanup at South Shore Beach. The cleanup runs from noon to 2 p.m.
On Sunday morning, Barend and his team will return, trucks loaded, to Rockaway Beach with more supplies.
Where To Donate:
- Living Water Surf will be accepting donations from noon until 6 p.m. on Saturday.
- Crowther's Food and Drink, 90 Pottersville Road: from 7-10 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 10.
- Wilbur's General Store, 50 Commons: 7 a.m. - 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
- Art Cafe, 7 South of Commons Road: 7 a.m. - 3-p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
What To Donate:
Winter coats, hats, gloves, thermal clothing and underwear and socks are needed as well as food items and cleaning supplies.
"People are starting over, they have lost cars, homes, so they are super thankful for everything," said Barend, reflecting on his experience dropping off supplies last weekend.
"When people thanked you, you felt ashamed to say no problem because you knew it was all the people back home who rallied up with all the stuff, helped pay for gas, and pack it up," Barend added. "I was just one part of the team."
The Kinane family, like Barend, is entrenched in the East Coast surfing community, a fact that helped them choose Rockaway Beach as the destination for Tiverton-Little Compton's generosity.
Chuck Kinane, a videographer who now lives in New York City, often surfs Rockaway Beach in his time off. After Hurricane Sandy, he visited the coastal town and started sharing images of the devastation with friends and family back home.
"A connection that all surfers are having right now is No. 1 that this was a coastal storm and when you go on any traditional surfing website and look at coastal news, it's all Hurricane Sandy and relief because the east coast is kind of a small surfing community and you actually get to know people - even people from other states," said Barend.
After seeing Kinane's Instagram photos of houses ripped from their foundations by swirling tides and families huddled outside shelters and drop off locations waiting for basic supplies, Barend and the Kinane family knew they had to act. After Little Compton was largely spared from Sandy's wrath, the team wanted to share a bit of their own good fortune with a fellow surf-friendly community in need.
"We always use the benchmark of the 1938 hurricane and that's what everyone is always afraid could happen," said Barend. "You go online and see the write-ups and the devastation in Rockaway and you're drawing those comparisons. It's just a short distance away and people got hit by that type of storm."