Hurricane Sandy and a very personal mission

In the days after Hurricane Sandy, Consumer Advocate Karla Ayala helped a young family with a newborn who had no power. Four years on, the phone rang and Karla was surprised to be speaking to them again.

A few months ago, I picked up the phone and heard an unfamiliar voice. A lady said: “Do you remember me? Four years ago you didn’t know who I was, but you helped me out. I just wanted to tell you my baby turned four years old last week and to say thank you.”

Immediately, I was transported back to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and the plight of a young couple in Coney Island. As we tried to help those affected, I was going door to door with my co-worker, Carl Pawlak. There were many homes without power and we were handing out blankets and flashlights.

One family’s story

We came to the home of a young couple who spoke no English. They were newly arrived in the country from Latin America. Just two weeks earlier the lady had given birth. They had no diapers or formula and, because of the storm, there was nowhere nearby to buy fresh supplies. I remember Carl turning to me and saying: “This is unacceptable. We have to do something.”

We pooled together some money and I went out and bought diapers, formula and other necessities – enough to get them through the next couple of weeks. I also went home and picked up some baby clothes to help keep the little one warm until their heat could be restored a few days later.

At the time my twins were ten months old. I had plenty of clothes they’d outgrown that I could donate. We left the items at the couple’s front door later that day along with my business card. I scribbled down my cell phone number on the back in case they needed anything else.

Making a difference

One of the great things about my job is knowing that we can make a real difference in our customers’ lives. When I took that phone call four years later, it made me very happy. The lady found my business card buried among some documents and decided to get in touch.

My co-workers worked tirelessly in the weeks after Sandy, going above and beyond their regular jobs. Like everyone else, I have good days and bad days. That day in Coney Island was a tough one.

But I do believe that social work became part of my calling for a reason. That phone call renewed my belief in what I do.

Published: June 2017