THE LEOS CHANGED MY LIFE Helping to Weather the Storm As Hurricane Sandy approached the East Coast in October, Rosemarie Cantelmo and her neighbors at the Colonial Gardens Co-op in Staten Island, New York, were preparing to wait out the storm. Although the apartment complex was just more than a mile from the beach, it was not considered to be in the flood zone, so the residents were not too worried. They had no idea what Sandy had in store. By the end of the storm the basement apartments were under five feet of water. A great deal of cleanup was required to restore life back to normal. When the Yorktown Leos heard that help was needed, 58 of them traveled 70 miles from their hometown to Colonial Gardens and spent a day pitching in, much to Cantelmo’s delight and surprise. Q&A: Rosemarie Cantelmo LION Magazine: When did you realize that the storm was going to be worse than you expected? Rosemarie Cantelmo: Since we hadn’t had major flooding issues in the past, we were more worried about the power going out than anything. We were even having a little hurricane party in a neighbor’s apartment to wait out the storm. But when a neighbor left to visit her sister down the street, she came back hysterical that she couldn’t get there because of the flooding. I looked outside and couldn’t believe it as I watched the water rising, then saw the ocean surge. LM: What was the extent of the damage? RC: By the next morning the water had receded, but the basement apartments were ruined. They had to be gutted and the residents couldn’t stay there. They’re still not back in their apartments. We didn’t have electricity for 17 days. LM: Did you know the Leos were coming to help? RC: No, a week or two after the storm, the Leos just showed up. I couldn’t believe it! I thought it was amazing that they came all the way here to help. LM: What did the Leos do? RC: They worked all day clearing out the apartments, and it wasn’t easy work. It was also sad. Residents were emotional about the belongings they lost, but the kids were just amazing. They never once complained, and their cheerful spirits really moved our residents. LM: Has the Leos’ service had a lasting effect? RC: That these kids stepped up renews my faith in our future generation. I’m a 6th-grade teacher, and I told my students all about it. It’s opened up a dialogue about the importance of service. We still have work to do, but it helps that on our darkest day the Leos were our ray of sunshine. Lions: have you heard from a beneficiary or a recipient of your kindness, service or charity? Tell us about the feedback you receive from those whose lives you’ve changed for the better. Email a brief description of your correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include “Thank You” in the subject line.
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