“The people of Rockaway, Queens will never forget Homestead, Florida,” said Queens Borough President Helen M. Marshall to Councilwoman Judy Waldman during a conference call regarding the Hurricane Sandy Relief Drive that Councilwoman Waldman organized.
As soon as Councilwoman Judy Waldman learned about the destruction Hurricane Sandy had cause in the Northeast, she hurried to find ways in which Homestead could help the victims of the tragedy. In only ten days, with the help of volunteers and donations from hundreds of Homestead residents and businesses, Councilwoman Waldman was able to fill up a large truck with food, winter clothing and many other needed items.
“This community knows all too well what it feels like to have a hurricane create such devastation and to depend on the kindness of others. It was imperative for us to come together and help those affected in New York,” said Councilwoman Judy Waldman referring to Homestead’s own experience through Hurricane Andrew.
Homestead Police Chief Al Rolle, Emergency Manager Captain Ed Bowe, and head volunteer of the Hurricane Sandy Drive Bennie Butler also joined Councilwoman Waldman during the conference call with Queens Borough President Marshall.
Homestead Police Chief Al Rolle spoke to President Marshall about Homestead’s experience after Hurricane Andrew. “We were told it would take us five years to rebuild and 15 years later we were still rebuilding our city. I know there is still a lot of work ahead of you, but you are going to rebuild and you will rebuild even better,” said Chief Rolle.
Homestead’s Emergency Manager Captain Ed Bowe, a first responder during Hurricane Andrew, also shared words of encouragement. “You have a long haul ahead of you but you have the whole country behind you, including Homestead” said Captain Bowe.
The 53-foot long truck filled with donations from Homestead residents arrived in mid December to Rockaway, Queens, one of the areas most affected by Hurricane Sandy. “It was a big truck!” said President Marshall. “And we greatly appreciate your help. Americans are loving people and when you are in trouble they come out to help you.”
Councilwoman Waldman, with the help of Adrienne Griffitts, was able to secure the donation of the truck and its delivery from northAmerican Van Lines and Homestead Transfer and Storage. Donations also came from Congressman Jose Garcia, the Homestead-Miami Speedway, non-for-profit organization Farm Share, and Jose Camarillo, a Homestead resident and owner of local business SkyNet, who donated $5,000 that were used to buy food, clothing, blankets and other needed items.
Councilwoman Waldman knows the importance of offering help to those who have lost everything in a tragedy, as she relied in the kindness of strangers when Andrew swept through Homestead 20 years ago. The kindness that people showed towards one another and willingness to help strangers overcome this disaster left a lasting impression on the Councilwoman. Most Homestead residents subsisted for months on donations from strangers from all over the United States. This inspired her to originate the Kindness Awards during Andrew’s 10th Anniversary, as a way to recognize acts of kindness in times of need. It also prompted her to organize the Homestead Gives Back Hurricane Sandy Relief Drive.
“Homestead was forever changed by Hurricane Andrew and is still recognized for having survived this catastrophic event. We just celebrated our 20th anniversary and the recovery of our community, so it was our turn to support our fellow Americans in their time of need as was overwhelmingly done for our community during our darkest hour,” said Councilwoman Judy Waldman, who also organized a relief drive for Hurricane Charley in 2004.