Thieves Target Volunteers Aiding Staten Island

Days after powerful waves created by Hurricane Sandy washed over parts of Staten Island and left devastation behind, a group of people from other states arrived in New York City saying they wanted to help.

The volunteers were from a Massachusetts-based group called All Hands. They were willing to work for free but needed a place to stay, so members of the New York City Council got in touch with the Rev. Kevin Fisher of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church near the North Shore of Staten Island.

Over the last several weeks, Father Fisher said on Saturday, the volunteers have helped repair damage to homes on Staten Island. Many people have been grateful, but two thieves saw the volunteers as targets.

The police said that a young man and a young woman entered St. Mary’s earlier this week and stole items belonging to the volunteers, including clothes, a guitar, a backpack, a laptop computer, a camera and cellphones.

The two had come to the church the week before, too, and made off with other items, including computers, said Father Fisher, who called the thefts “a disgrace to the island.” In both instances, he said, security cameras showed images of the thieves entering the church while the volunteers were out working.

Father Fisher said that about 15 volunteers, from places like Massachusetts, California and Kentucky, had been staying regularly at the church, sleeping on air bags and using the premises as an organizing hub to coordinate additional volunteers who show up on weekends, when their numbers have swelled to nearly 100.

The volunteers have worked about 12 hours a day, Father Fisher said, tearing sodden drywall and carpets from homes and helping to scrub mold from walls and wooden beams. So far, he said, the group had helped clean about 90 homes.

“They are down-to-earth people, they are humble and they are giving,” Father Fisher said. “The work they are doing is absolutely essential.”

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