Local man conducting coat drive for N.Y. storm victims

While much of Greenwich has recovered from Superstorm Sandy, many New York residents have not been so lucky.

Now Cos Cob resident Rick Novakowski is seeing to it that they get the assistance they need by conducting a mobile coat drive through Dec. 10. After watching the devastation brought upon New York by the storm, especially Long Island and Staten Island, Mr. Novakowski said, he wanted to find a way to help those who were most impacted.

“As bad as things were here, when you see all that they lost over there [in New York], you feel a little guilty. At my own house we didn’t even lose power,” he said.

Although “feeling guilty” might not be the best words to describe his sentiments, Mr. Novakowski said he felt a certain duty to provide whatever assistance he could, especially in light of the holiday season.

“It just seems that a lot of times the people that can least take a blow like this are the people that get it the worst,” he said. And with Christmas fast approaching, “it’s more gratifying than any gift you can get if you can make a difference with people when they really need it,” he said.

This is not the first time Mr. Novakowski has done a drive like this. In 2010, he led one to benefit Bridgeport Rescue Mission, a Bridgeport-based homeless shelter. That past work helped lay the groundwork for this because it showed him how he could do it as well as the community’s willingness to give.

And just like last time, Mr. Novakowski’s method of reaching out is no ordinary process, either.

Rather than designating a drop-off location where community members could donate coats and winter clothing, Mr. Novakowski is coming to them. After reaching out to him by email or phone, donors set up a suitable time for Mr. Novakowski to come to their homes and pick up the items, which he later delivers to New York storm victims.

Fortunately, word of the coat drive has started to spread through town, prompting Miller Motorcars to offer him the largest vehicle they have — an 18-wheeler — in order to transport the donated clothing to New York. And although he may not need a vehicle of that magnitude, the hope is that the town will make it necessary, he said.

“I’d love to take Miller Motorcars up on that offer for the 18-wheeler and for Greenwich to fill up the 18-wheeler. That’d be awesome,” Mr. Novakowski said.

Transporting the clothing to New York, however, is not the end of the road for Mr. Novakowski.

He said it is hard to know what victims really need and that when he drops off the winter clothing he will find out what else he can collect to make their recovery easier. Helping the victims does not mean collecting donations and walking away, Mr. Novakowski said, but it is an ongoing process that he plans to be involved in for as long as it takes.

Having already received a positive response from a number of Greenwich residents, Mr. Novakowski said he’s grateful for the community support he’s received thus far and knows there are plenty more people out there who want to help but don’t know how. He hopes to reach them in the days and weeks ahead.

The community’s willingness to help others is “what Thanksgiving is all about,” he added. “You see the best in humanity during things like this.”

To donate coats or winter clothing to the drive, contact Rick Novakowski at 203-536-6704 or [email protected] before Dec. 10.

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