Kindness Revealed in Crisis
The Wind Storm of 2017 took the area by surprise as wind speeds up to 81 mph ripped through local communities. Previously, the highest wind speed recorded in this area was 89 mph.
Destructive and powerful winds took down an estimated 3000 power lines and over 400 utility poles in the area. The storm resulted in power outages to 125,000 homes. It was the largest power outage to affect this area in 14 years. Greece was one of the worst hit communities. Many residents were left without power for up to five days. Temperatures plummeted after the storm creating a dangerous situation for those without heat. This was especially true for Greece’s 38% senior citizen population.
Hotels within the region quickly filled up as displaced residents left their homes to seek warmth and safety. Many residents and out of town utility workers were left with no place to go. The strength of the community shined through the aftermath of the storm when Greece Supervisor Bill Reilich opened the Community and Senior Center as a warming shelter for anyone who was in need of heat, food or a place to sleep. Peter O’Brien, Director of Parks and Recreation for the Town of Greece, and his staff quickly pulled together to staff the warming center. The shelter opened to the public mid-day on Thursday, March 8th and remained open until Tuesday, March 14th at 8PM, after all residents had their power restored.
According to O’Brien the shelter offered warmth, food and beverages to anyone in need of it. In addition the center provided cots, blankets, pillows, showers, toiletries, electronic charging stations, television, game room and children’s activity room. The Center’s staff worked tirelessly to welcome and help displaced residents. The reception area also helped the residents stay informed on the status of the power restoration.
With the assistance of Greece Central Schools, transportation was provided to any Greece resident in need, helping with rides to the center or back home. Greece Volunteer Ambulance Service was also on site providing emergency medical assistance and provisions. The presence of the Greece Volunteer Ambulance Service made the Greece shelter one of the only shelters for oxygen dependent residents. O’Brien said the center provided services to Greece residents and also to families from the City of Rochester, Brighton, Irondequoit and Hilton. The center served nearly 200 displaced residents as well as up to 60 out of town utility workers.
Often when a disaster hits frenzy and survival of the fittest can set in. The devastation of this storm instead revealed the character and strength of the Greece Community. Hundreds of people from the Community, Churches, Schools, Businesses, Boy and Girl Scout Troops and Civic Organizations pulled together to help. “This was a real community effort,” O’Brien said. He witnessed an amazing outpouring of generosity being offered by many.
The Greece United Soccer Club worked with Walmart to provide pillows and toiletries. All three Greece Wegmans stores generously donated food to the Center. Residents showered the Center with kindness, donating clean blankets, pillows and comfort items. Three area churches stepped up to help serve. Greece Assembly of God, Lakeshore Community Church and First Bible Baptist Church helped the Center by providing volunteers, food, beverages, laundry services, cleaning crews and support to residents, as well as to the hard working linemen who worked tirelessly helping restore power.
As soon as Pastor Patrick Medeiros from Greece Assembly of God heard the town was opening up to provide a warming shelter he stopped in and asked, “How can we help serve the community?” He learned many volunteers were needed to provide manpower at the 24/7 warming center. Pastor Pat and his staff then went to work personally calling their church directory to first ask if anyone needed any help, and second to ask who would be willing and able to serve by helping at the shelter. This initiative turned into over 75 members offering assistance. Volunteers assisted in a variety of roles including providing support to the town staff, keeping the center clean, serving meals and providing laundry services to keep up with fresh linens needed by those sleeping at the shelter. Pastor Pat also gratefully acknowledged Ricci’s Restaurant for their generosity in partnering with Greece Assembly of God in providing meals to the center.
In addition to helping at the warming shelter, Pastor Pat and his volunteers purchased and delivered coffee, donuts and sub trays to the lineman and Greece Department of Public Works employees who were working exhausting hours on the storm cleanup. “It was a real joy to serve our community. We are really blessed and times like this brings our blessings to the forefront. We are at our best when we can serve together,” Pastor Pat said.
Lakeshore Community Church and Greece Assembly of God churches also provided support. After the storm, Pastor Corey Hunneyman of Lakeshore Community Church contacted the town to offer help. Pastor Corey connected with church members through their website and social media. The request for help was answered by 75 Lakeshore Community Church members. In particular Pastor Corey wanted to help cover the overnight shift so tired town employees could go home to their families and rest. “We were very excited to help. We saw a need and truly care about our community so we served,” Pastor Corey said. Both churches cancelled their services that weekend due to the outages. They strongly encouraged their members to take the time and serve the community. Even though they couldn’t have a church service, they still experienced church by serving in their community.
First Bible Baptist Church’s Pastor Don Curran offered his services to help at the warming center after one of his members, a Greece Police Officer, expressed to him just how exhausted the center employees were working through this difficult time. Pastor Don contacted Peter O’Brien to offer help. O’Brien accepted the offer for the church volunteers to help cover the Sunday night overnight shift so that his staff could get some rest. Pastor Don contacted his members and arranged a schedule of 18 volunteers to fill the overnight shifts. “We love God, we love to serve and offer a blessing to our community,” Pastor Don said.
During the six days the Community Center operated as a warming shelter, the kindness of the people in the community working together during crisis was a testimony to the heart of Greece. “It was heart warming to see the community, far and wide, come together to assist their neighbors in need. Under Supervisor Reilich’s leadership our Community Center transformed from a place of recreation to a place of safety. From volunteers to town staff it shows the generosity that lies within the Town of Greece, its residents and businesses,” O’Brien said.