OXFORD – A week after Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast, there are still New Yorkers unable to go home to begin picking up the pieces of their shattered lives. Trapped in shelters with a minimal amount of clothing and few available resources, these American refugees are shivering in their shoes as a nor’easter approaches on the horizon. Among the homeless are emergency response workers who so often have come to the aid of others, but are now in desperate need of help themselves.
“There is a special bond of brotherhood and sisterhood between emergency workers,” said Michelle Loughren of Oxford, who has spent the last 24 years working in the emergency field service, everywhere from Chenango County to Cortland and Nebraska.
Loughren is currently collecting donations of warm clothes (coats and boots in particular), nonperishable foods, diapers, hygienic supplies, coolers, and disinfectant wipes/bottles. Loughren is also accepting cases of water, but it’s lower on her list of priorities because water is one of the few things the Red Cross and the Salvation Army have been able provide for people stranded in shelters.
“The Red Cross is also handing out vouchers, but it’s hard for people to get anywhere to use the vouchers,” she said.
Loughren has been in touch with three firefighters who have not been allowed near their homes and have been told there might not even be much left. When they are allowed back, it will be important for them to have disinfectant supplies to clean what little can be salvaged, preventing them from getting sick on top of everything else.
“I’ve also been in touch with Norwich Fire Chief Tracy Chawgo, who is going to send out emails asking for help from his contact list,” said an excited Loughren, adding that any other local departments interested in lending a hand are more than welcome.
“We plan on clocking through the weekend taking donations, before reevaluate what we have collected, and deciding when we should head down,” said Loughren. When she does make her way downstate, Loughren intends to meet up with one of her firemen buddies who will accompany her when she visits the various firehouses where she will drop of the donations. Loughren added she also plans on documenting the donation process and posting it on a Facebook page. A link for the page will be made available on The Evening Sun’s own Facebook page.
Donations will be collected at Loughren’s home at 394 State Rt. 12, about a mile south of Oxford. Instructions are posted on the front door. For more information, call 843-7572.