On Sunday, the Fort Hunt community rallied around a family with close ties to one of the areas most affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Alice Sofield and her husband Rick are native Long Islanders. Rick grew up in Long Beach, one of the South Shore communities hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy. Rick’s parents, grandparents, and siblings still reside there, and his parents lost their home during the storm. All of his family members are safe.
The weekend after the storm, Rick picked up his five nieces and nephews from Long Beach, brought them back to Fort Hunt, and enrolled them in Fairfax County Public Schools.
“Neighbors brought over big bags of candy because the kids missed Halloween, and it just turned into a bigger thing,” Alice said.
Alice’s friend Kristen McCulloch is a hair stylist at Hairstream. McCulloch told her clients about the collection, and many of them stepped up to the plate to help. One client dropped off a bunk bed at the Sofield’s home that night, while other people made monetary donations. Another friend, Kim Gallagher, posted a message to Facebook asking neighbors to help out on Sunday. Meanwhile, Fort Hunt Lacrosse and Fort Hunt Football coaches shared this message with parents and supporters, generating more donations.
“Everything was really well coordinated,” Alice said. “It wasn’t really planned, it just happened. It’s mind-blowing.”
On Sunday, the Sofields welcomed a steady stream of neighbors bringing items to donate to the families on Long Beach and loading the 14 foot UHaul truck parked at their home. Neighbors donated a total of $6,000 including $800 in Target gift cards.
Alice’s sister-in-law Johanna Sofield is the co-founder of The Long Beach Christmas Angel, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that assists families in Long Beach during emergencies. Johanna helped coordinate the drop-off locations in Long Beach to help those in need.
Rick and his five nieces and nephews drove back to Long Beach on Sunday evening and dropped off donations at the Knights of Columbus Hall, St. Mary’s Church, the Martin Luther King Center, and St. Ignatius Martyr, where the Sofield family members attend church. The donations benefitted many Long Beach residents who sustained damage to their homes during the storm.
According to Johanna, The Long Beach Christmas Angel will begin the process of negotiating to receive new beds for families able to return to their homes in the near future. The organization will also assist with housing costs, as FEMA is issuing rent assistance with a two-month cap.
“Please know in your heart you have made an immediate impact on our community,” Johanna said in an email to supporters.
“It was heartwarming to see the outpouring of support from the community,” neighbor Paul Dean said in an email to Patch. “I was there most of the day on Sunday to help receive, sort and pack the contributions, and there was hardly a moment that there was not someone there dropping off a wide variety of donated items or financial contributions. And it’s great to know that our efforts are having a direct impact on a really devastated community.”
If you would like to make a monetary donation to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts in Long Beach, please visit the Long Beach Christmas Angel website for more information. http://www.longbeachchristmasangel.com/ If you do make a donation, please make a note that your donation is “for the Sofield family, from Fort Hunt, VA, for damages associated with Hurricane Sandy.”