This time a year ago West Islip as a community was focused on the future of its school district as an impending tax cap and cuts in state aid led to a discussion about closing schools.
Today, a number of residents find themselves focused on the future of their family.
It was a week ago that Hurricane Sandy came barreling ashore, bringing with it strong winds, blowing rains and a tidal surge many in the weather business are calling historic.
Across our hamlet, folks were dealing with power outages and downed trees. But for many living south of Montauk Highway, those issues seemed trivial when compared to the flood waters that moved houses off foundations, boats into living rooms and ruined a lifetime of memories.
But the devastation that left many families in need for the basics in life was met with an outpouring of support from all corners of West Islip.
A group of teachers quickly pulled together a clothing and food drive that ran throughout the weekend with Oquenock Elementary School serving as the drop off point. Simultaneously, the Women of West Islip organization set up shop at fire department headquarters to accept donations.
The response from the community was overwhelming, leaving organizers of both events speechless and proud of the hamlet in which they live.
Bags of clothes, cases of water, and boxes of food and toiletries were donated by local residents and sorted by a small army of volunteers at Oquenock and at the fire department.
Perhaps most moving was seeing local students dig in and help collect, sort and distribute the enormous volume of items that filled the cafeteria at Oquenock. They did so with smiles on their faces and a sense that they were helping a schoolmate’s family in need or folks they had never met.
Complaints were not heard and each donation that was dropped off seemed to energize the students. When cars pulled up, the kids were outside Oquenock ready and eager to lend a hand.
So while West Islip works to heal the wounds given by a vicious storm, Sandy once again brought out the good in people. Community leaders quickly organized clothing and food drives, and the next generation of leaders jumped in to help.
The latter should give all of us comfort in knowing the future of our community is in good hands.
Greg Sleter is a Regional Editor with Patch.com and a West Islip resident. The opinions here are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch.com or its parent company.