The singer Lady Gaga just pledged $1 million to the Red Cross to aid the victims of Hurricane Sandy, so many of whom saw their lives torn apart by the powerful storm. Some of her fellow entertainers held a concert Friday night, the Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together Telethon, which raised $23 million, also to go to the Red Cross.
The Red Cross is a fine, longstanding institution —though it has rightly come under fire for being slow to respond to the hurricane. And in the past its financial practices have been questioned. More importantly, once the immediate crisis is over, the Red Cross will depart from Howard Beach, Broad Channel and the Rockaways and be on its way.
Sticking around, however, will be the volunteer emergency assistance organizations that have always been here, always serving us —the volunteer ambulance corps and, especially in South Queens, fire departments, that rely on the community for support. These are the groups that answer the call on everything from medical emergencies to fires, supplementing the work of the FDNY.
But some of them, such as the Broad Channel and West Hamilton Beach volunteer fire departments, were all but wiped out by the wrath of Hurricane Sandy.
Headquarters were flooded. Trucks were demolished by the rising waters and, in the case of the BCVFD, one was lost to fire. That’s why on its website the organization is saying it needs public assistance more than ever.
Even those groups that did not suffer such catastrophic losses have been paying a big price for helping protect the people of Queens. Their budgets, already strained, are hitting the breaking point. Many had been funded in part by state allocations secured by area lawmakers, and those are getting harder to come by as Gov. Cuomo tightens the reins on spending.
The WHBVFD is getting two used fire trucks from out-of-state fire departments that have made their own upgrades and no longer need them. But no such pledges have yet been made to the BCVFD. And volunteer forces from all over Queens that helped out in the storm and since then — including Forest Hills and Jamaica Estates —need help to keep doing what they do.
You’ll find two stories in most editions of this week’s Queens Chronicle, or at qchron.com, about the plight of our volunteer emergency groups — one focused on the donated rigs and the other on the financial need all the groups are facing. The latter story contains information on contributing to them so they can continue to serve. We urge area residents to donate to these selfless groups so they can keep up the crucial work they do.