Kathy Nesbit believes in paying it forward and she found the opportunity to give back to the people of Long Island after Superstorm Sandy hit the area in late October.
Nesbit, a nurse who grew up in Mt. Sinai and graduated from Port Jefferson High School in 1982, relocated with her family to a subdivision in North Carolina about seven years ago, a year after her daughter Julia started weekly chemotherapy treatments for leukemia. Julia battled the disease, not just once but twice.
Thankfully, Julia has since recovered from her illness. The support the Nesbits received from family and friends during those the difficult times was overwhelming. It hasn’t been forgotten.
“My Port Jefferson friends and New York friends supported us with fundraisers, letters and cards,” she said. “[They] supported us in ways we couldn’t believe.”
That outpouring of goodwill for her family in their time of need inspired her to start her own charity called Julia's Rainbow Fund to help other families in the same situation who may not have a support system as strong as the Nesbits.
A walkathon that she and her former classmate, Port Jefferson resident Brian Hoerger, held at the beginning of the month helped to raise over $8,000 dollars for the fund.
After Sandy hit the area, Nesbit knew she had to do something to give back to the people who were there in her time of need.
“You should pay it forward or what’s the point?” Nesbit said. “You shouldn’t even think about it.”
With the help of her neighbors, Denise McCarthy and Donna Kennelly (both transplants from New Jersey), Nesbit organized a drive to collect items needed for the most affected victims of the storm. In the first round, they filled three garages with donations of everything from personal hygiene products to clothing.
“Every time I came home there was a new pile on my front porch,” Nesbit said.
They filled up three trucks and sent them up north. The trucks (one 28-foot truck and two 15-foot trucks) were anonymously donated for the cause.
The delivery never made it to Long Island because of a double whammy of the nor’easter that struck the area immediately after Sandy and the gas shortage. The trucks got as far as in New Jersey and unloaded their supplies for the victims in that state.
Nesbit and her neighbors are putting out calls for a new batch of items, including building and demolition supplies to help people rebuild and recover. She’s also thinking about the holidays.
“We also want to get stuff for the kids,” she said. “Who knows where some of these kids are going to be?”
Her next delivery is scheduled to go up to the hardest hit areas on the south shore of Long Island by the end of November where she says she has friends and family, some relocated from the Port Jefferson area. While she has contacted local fire departments and churches to find out where people need supplies to go she’s still looking for suggestions.
“Wherever people need the help is where we want to go,” Nesbit said. “We don’t want it to go to waste.”
In her neighborhood she estimates that 85 percent of the people living there are originally from New York or New Jersey, so their connection to the people affected by the storm is strong.
“So many people from there are down here. Port Jeff is where I came from,” she said. “I’m not really doing anything special.”
If you have suggestions or if your organization is looking for supplies for victims of Superstorm Sandy email Kathy Nesbitt at Kathyknesbitt@gmail.com.