Story and Photos by Joley Welkowitz
The Martin Luther King Center will remain open as a post-Hurricane Sandy distribution center until Jan. 21, the City of Long Beach told Patch last week.
MLK and city officials agreed on this date last Friday, after some residents – including MLK Chairman James Hodge – had expressed concern that the city may discontinue the distribution center after it had ceased using the Long Beach Ice Arena last week for the same purposes.
“We have dispatched a city worker to MLK to assist James Hodge to run that center and we are working closely with everybody on the MLK board, the center itself and the community,” City Manager Jack Schnirman told Patch.
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Although the MLK sustained extensive damaged during the storm, the building, at 615 Riverside Blvd., opened a week later as a city-run site where hurricane victims could receive needed clothing, food, hot meals, water, cleaning supplies and hygiene products.
The MLK also features a trailer where residents to take hot showers, provided by Assest Group Inc., a construction and remediation company, and has distributed electrical heaters supplied by the Red Cross and Federal Emergency Management Agency and through private donations.
Many residents, including from the North Park neighborhood where the MLK is located, are still without heat or electricity or both, Hodge said. Others said that many residents are still displaced and need to return to their storm-damaged homes.
“Don’t close the MLK because everybody else is going back to normalcy,” resident Lucy Centeno urged city officials at last Tuesday’s City Council meeting. “... Please continue to help our community.”
The day after the distribution center is closed at MLK, on Jan. 22, the city will start construction to make major repairs and restore the building. While the MLK is a non-profit, the city operates its childcare program located in the building, and the city will pay for most of the repairs, including to the front of the building, bathrooms, exhaust fans, and roof. The boiler and some walls, which were already gutted, need to be replaced, too. The city will not pay for other damages the building sustained, or any lost property.
Meanwhile, donations continue to pour in from throughout the country. On Friday night, a shipment of multiple crates of supplies – including food, clothing, hygiene products and more -- arrived from South Carolina, after a family there collected these items to send to Long Beach. And since the Red Cross is no longer providing hot meals, many Long Island restaurants, businesses and organizations, from Hempstead to East Moriches, have stepped up to provide hot food for city residents. The center has been delivering hot meals door-to-door.
On Dec. 1, National Grid sponsored a dinner at the MLK Center, providing more than 200 Long Beach residents with hot meals.
"Working with the Martin Luther King Center, National Grid was pleased to sponsor and serve dinner to the community of Long Beach that is recovering from Sandy," Michael Ruiz, National Grid’s director of community and customer management, said in a statement.
The Greek Orthodox Youth Association of Nassau and Suffolk County brought in youthes from all across Long Island to pitch in at the center.
“We thought, what can we do amongst our community to help out,” said Father Nikolas Karloutsos of Archangel Michael Greek Orthodox Church of Port Washington.
Hodge said the MLK desperately needs volunteers, especially during the week to help organize the many donations. The center also needs volunteers who can use their cars to deliver food to local homes and apartment buildings.
“Volunteers make what we want to do possible,” said Kelly McCormack, volunteer coordinator at MLK.
To volunteer at the MLK Center, contact
Long Beach Recovery on Facebook, email Kelly McCormack at Kmmcormack33@msn.com, or call Shertona Hankins at 347-727-8145 Shertonah@gmail.com.
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