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Phoenix parties help Sandy victims rise back to normalcy

A group gathers in Bayside to celebrate their first Phoenix party, where they present gifts to a victim of Hurricane Sandy. Photo courtesy John Peiser
TimesLedger Newspapers

A new wave of support for Superstorm Sandy victims has risen out of Bayside, where one woman hopes to inspire others to shower those less fortunate with help.

Jane Lynch, a teacher at Saint Francis Prep in Fresh Meadows, injected a new twist into the act of donating supplies to storm victims when she launched her first Phoenix party earlier this month. Similar to that of a wedding or baby shower, guests purchased items like kitchen appliances and bedding from a registry and gifted them to a woman who had lost everything.

“Instead of calling them parties for the victims of Sandy, my friend suggested we call them Phoenix parties as a way of suggesting that this is one more step toward rising from the ashes of Sandy,” Lynch said. “The idea is to get them what they need, but give it to them in a way that doesn’t make them feel like they are receiving charity. It’s a party.”

Lynch assembled 10 of her friends and family members at her sister’s home in Bayside, where they celebrated the gifting of home essentials for a friend from Broad Channel whose home was badly flooded in the storm. Though the woman at the center of the party did not want her name publicized, Lynch said there was nothing but positivity coming out of the shower from the initial greetings to the hugs goodbye.

“The easy part is to find the support because everyone wants to help,” Lynch said. “They want to feel more connected and this works organically.”

The guests, who had never met the storm victim, purchased the items off a registry at a local retailer to avoid duplicates and to ensure that they are donating something that is badly needed.

“It’s a chance for us to directly help people who were victims of the storm,” said Moira Clinton, of Bayside. “We were affected in Bayside but nothing like what this particular family has had to endure.”

Lynch said the idea came to her while teaching in Fresh Meadows, where she heard tale after tale of storm victims being left with nothing and struggling to rebuild without the key essentials.

After floating the idea to one storm victim she had been put in touch with through mutual friends, she helped organize a registry for guests to purchase and gain inspiration from.

One guest, she said, noticed there were different shell-themed items on the registry and took it upon herself to craft a homemade wreath out of seashells for the shower. The group finally gathered March 2 in Bayside for the party, where they ate sandwiches, opened gifts and shared laughs.

Lynch said she hoped the idea of Phoenix parties would catch on with anyone else looking to show their support for Sandy victims still working toward normalcy in their lives.

“It’s about the intangibles,” Lynch said. “This way, she gets to tell a positive story from the storm. She has a sympathetic ear. She has people going out of their way for her. All of those things, you can’t make up, and are even more sustaining than a spatula.”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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