A few weeks ago I posted some options for people who might want to help out with the devastation in the states affected by Hurricane Sandy. One of the aid efforts listed was a community fundraising project for the Breezy Point neighborhood started by a young college student, Matthew Petronis. To get the word out about the grass roots effort in Breezy Point and to practice the important skill of writing solid questions to discover information, my high school English students collaborated on a series of interview questions to which Matthew graciously responded. one tiny violet is pleased to host the results of the student interview below.
Where were you when Hurricane Sandy arrived and what was your reaction to news of the devastation?
When Hurricane Sandy arrived I was in my dorm room at college (Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C). I found out about the devastation the morning after the hurricane arrived. I woke up and went on face book and saw all the devastation and homes demolished through videos and pictures.
What inspired you to help raise money for your community?
It wasn’t really an inspiration, it was more of instant reaction. I sat in my room feeling terrible for my community and I thought to myself, “No use sitting here sobbing. How can I create a way to help and keep my friends positive?” Breezy Point is a town where everyone helps each other out in any situation. This was my way of helping out.
There is a ticker on your website counting down the days remaining to reach the fund goal of $500,000. Why the time limit? And how will the funds raised be used to assist Breezy Point residents?
There really is no limit to days or money raised. I just put it on the page to see how much we could raise in 90 days. As for the fund goal, the sky’s the limit — we will take anything we can get. The funds will be used to help all of the victims of the hurricane. Many people have insurance on their homes, but are receiving little to nothing for them. And some people don’t have insurance at all. This fund will go directly to aiding them in the rebuilding process and to helping Breezy Point rebuild as a community.
How are you keeping up with your classes at CUA in addition to juggling this fundraising project?
I have learned through my life to handle the cards you’re dealt. I never expected this to happen, so I’m just handling it like I’ve handled everything in my life. I have always played sports and been a part of clubs from middle school and up. Playing sports and participating in after school activities has taught me to juggle multiple things at once and still maintain myself in my studies.
Where is your home in relation to those that sustained the most damage in Breezy Point? Was your home damaged as well and to what extent?
My home is on the west side of Breezy, closest to the jetty that divides Jamaica Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. My home was severely flooded and the deck around my home was torn apart.
It has been three weeks since Hurricane Sandy hit. How are things looking in your neighborhood now? Are schools and churches or businesses operating? Give us some sense of how people are coping, especially with winter and the holidays approaching.
Every one in Breezy is holding their own. No businesses are open due to lack of power or clean water. The Red Cross and many other organizations have done their part to help and spirits are high with all the support.
What place in Breezy Point holds special memories for you that you would most like to see rebuilt and why?
The field in the center of Breezy. It was where all my CYO sports were held and it was a safe haven to many who wanted to get away from school work or anything else going on in their lives.
What are your religious views and did they play a role in your decision to help your community?
I am Christian and my beliefs helped me all along the way and have not stopped. I have been taught to do what is right and when help is needed, you find a way to help in any way possible.
What has been the most difficult struggle you’ve experienced since helping to organize this project?
I haven’t had any struggles so far and do not plan on having any in the future because everyone in the U.S has been so supportive and I don’t see that slowing down in the near future.
God can make good come out of any situation or tragedy. What good has resulted from Hurricane Sandy? What lessons have you learned from your experience that others might benefit from?
Although my town was destroyed, things like this make my community even stronger than it was before. If this has taught me anything it’s to always stay positive, don’t give up, and that someone out there wants to help you.
This interview was conducted by Michelle Hall, Rebecca Plaster, Misha Johnston, Marissa Sigala, and Matthew Boucher, who would like to thank Matthew Petronis for his time in answering the questions.
For information about the Breezy Point Fund or to donate click here.