It was immediately after Super Storm Sandy hit the NYC area in 2012 that a group of friends and family members decided to do something to help the families that lost so much from the storms devastation. So many families in our area had experienced flooding and the shortage of food and drinking water. The loss of heat and electricity was massive. Public and private transportation came to a halt with the shortage of fuel. People slept on the streets because their homes were unsafe or destroyed.
We presented a plan of action and partnered with our local church to collect, coats, warm clothing, food, water and other necessities to distribute in Far Rockaway Queens which was one the hardest hit areas in NYC. During the following weeks we helped collect and distribute additional items that were so desperately needed to help in the clean-up process.
As the weeks went on and Thanksgiving approached, many were still without power and heat. Thinking about how hard it must be for families at this time, we realized that during the upcoming Christmas season it would become financially and emotionally harder. We decided to start a Toy Drive and called our group Shining Lights Helping Hands. Businesses and other volunteers were eager to join with us and were thankful that we had become a channel for them to help those in need.
We partnered with the New York Police Benevolent Association and were given a location, date and assistance to distribute toys. Their gratitude was overwhelming and they were so thankful for us coming, knowing that so many children in their neighborhood would be without gifts this year. Within a few weeks after deciding to start the Toy Drive, we loaded up nine vehicles and drove into the battered sandy streets of NYC to distribute over 1000 toys, gift items, blankets, candy and fresh fruit to hundreds of children.
Although our passion to help others remained, it wasn’t until June of 2015 that Shining Lights Helping Hands officially became a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Since then we have continued to reach out to help families with children and have been continually expanding to lend a helping hand to others in need.