Story and photo by Bob Wallace
LONG BEACH, N.Y. – James Hodges is not one to look the other way when a community is in need.
The Pinetown area of Long Beach, on the south edge of Long Island, was without gas, electricity and heat for days after Superstorm Sandy. Hodges sprang into action and organized a distribution point for food, clothing and other much needed supplies at the Martin Luther King Community Center.
“Pinetown has the largest concentration of children in the city,” noted Hodges, “and hunger is not a stranger here.”
Those who could, responded to his prodding and soon the center was stocked with many of the essentials that families lost when storm-force winds and tidal surges tore through their neighborhoods.
The American Red Cross supports many grass-roots relief operations such as this, providing free hot meals, clean-up supplies, medical items and emotional support from 3 to 7 p.m. daily. The city of Long Beach has also assigned an employee to support Hodge’s efforts, and there is hope that utilities will soon be fully restored.
Hodges is often out in the street in front of the community center with a bullhorn, encouraging members of the surrounding neighborhood to come and get a hot meal from the Red Cross. He becomes particularly animated when the many school buses that serve the community stop to drop off their charges for the day. Calling many of the students by name, Hodges urges them to stop for a hot meal and to take one home too.
Reflecting on the Thanksgiving holiday in the midst of his community’s struggles, Hodges replied thoughtfully, “I’m thankful for life, and I’m thankful that the Red Cross is here.”