New London restaurant owner leads NYC donation effort

New London - Amy Sarcia lost half the roof of her Pawcatuck home and endured five days without power. Her restaurant was forced to close for four days and $10,000 worth of food spoiled during the outage.

But the 2Wives Brick Oven Pizza owner planned to drive to New York City Monday night after collecting about $500, food, warm clothes and supplies to donate to those hit hard by Hurricane Sandy in the New York region.

The TV footage of the damage and the visceral reaction of one woman, who clutched and cried to a reporter as she told of her loss, hit home for Sarcia.

"It's the scale of loss, how devastated those folks are," she said. "That's not just, 'my basement flooded' or 'I lost business at my restaurant,' it's 'I lost everything, I lost all my personal possessions.'"

Sarcia put out a plea for donations on social media and at her restaurant, which reopened Friday after four days. The request spread like wildfire, she said, and many who showed up at her Huntington Street restaurant were total strangers.

"So many people want to help, but they don't know how," Sarcia said. "Calling up and making a donation is not enough for some people."

They came with cash or canned goods, flashlights and batteries. Many brought blankets, scarves, hats and gloves to help warm those who might be without electricity for weeks. One brought a "Dreamie," which touts itself as "a comfy cocoon with a pillow pocket."

When Ronda Burke walked in the front door around 5:30 p.m., she asked Sarcia where to put the 44 blankets and eight flashlights she brought to donate. A restaurant employee helped unload green plastic bags filled with tightly rolled fleece blankets, which hours later would be wrapped around a cold but thankful person in Queens or Staten Island.

"Thanks for being a vehicle for giving," Burke told Sarcia as the two women, complete strangers, embraced.

Burke, who went five days without power in her New London home, shrugged off the gesture, saying "it's just my opportunity to give."

"I'm just happy to be able to give," Burke said as she also offered up a case of water she had stashed in her car. "My mother gave me the gift of giving."

By the time it reached 7 p.m., Sarcia's planned departure time, it appeared she'd need to take up her friend's offer of a box truck to transport the goods. The plan included a stop in Breezy Point, Queens and on Staten Island, two of the hardest-hit areas. Friends in Queens told Sarcia of churches there that are in need of donations and a Red Cross tent that could barely keep up with the demand for supplies.

She still needed to make plans to secure her damaged roof, especially with another storm predicted for this week, but on Monday there were others with more pressing needs.

"When Hurricane Katrina happened and 9/11 happened, I wanted to go there and help, but I couldn't because I had kids just starting school," Sarcia said. "Now I can."

s.goldstein@theday.com

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