Groton collects for Sandy's N.Y. victims

Bethany Silvia, one of the donation coordinators from Groton, laughs as she shows her mother a note, written by an acquaintance and attached to a donated item.
Bethany Silvia, one of the donation coordinators from Groton, laughs as she shows her mother a note, written by an acquaintance and attached to a donated item. Abigail Pheiffer/ Special to The Day Buy Photo

Groton - Bethany Silvia of Groton went a few days without power after Hurricane Sandy and laughs it off now as a minor distraction in light of the devastation elsewhere.

"Some people are just now getting back into their homes. Some people don't have homes," Silvia said. "We were fortunate. This could have happened to us in Groton."

Silvia joined with friends and family Saturday at Rich's Service Center on Poquonnock Road to sort through items donated in the past week for people on Staten Island, N.Y., where Sandy destroyed homes and killed 22 people.

A caravan of five or six trucks and trailers was scheduled to leave today for the area.

Silvia and Rich Hurne, co-owners of the service station, collected donations all week from individuals and businesses. Boxes stacked inside and outside the business contained everything from winter clothing and pet food to cleaning supplies and canned goods, as well as several pallets of water.

"We're doing this because we just really enjoy helping people," Silvia said. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think there would be such an outpouring."

Among several people to drop off donations Saturday was Nikki Gullickson of Groton, a family friend. Gullickson, the assistant superintendent of the Stonington schools, heard about the collection and sent a text message to her "peeps" that yielded immediate donations.

"We're here dealing with five days without power," Gullickson said. "We dodged a bullet. We're complaining because we can't put on the lights, and they're down there burning debris to keep warm. It's heartbreaking."

The collection began with an idea by 21-year-old Colton Jenkins, owner of Jenkins Landscaping, who has a customer with a home in New Jersey who gave first-hand accounts of the poor state of the area.

Jenkins asked around and found people willing to donate. He figured with his landscape trucks and trailers, he had the means to help. He said Silvia and Hurne jumped at the idea of using their station as a drop-off location.

Jenkins said he has a contact in Staten Island and once there, he plans to go neighborhood to neighborhood to distribute the goods. He is also bringing chain saws and leaf blowers in the event they are needed.

"I just wanted to do something," Jenkins said.

Jenkins' father, veteran Groton City Police Officer Ron Jenkins, has taken the day off to join the caravan with a loaded Groton City police pickup truck.

Ron Jenkins is no stranger to devastation, having traveled to volunteer in New York after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"I needed a vacation day," Ron Jenkins joked. "You really realize how lucky you are when you see what happened in New York and New Jersey."

g.smith@theday.com

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