Ed Mangano ordered a cheeseburger and the fried pickles and was beaming over a soft drink. The County Executive clicked glasses with a team of people trying to raise awareness about the Long Islanders still suffering from Hurricane Sandy's devastation.
As they did, the table shouted "Salute:" Italian for "cheers" or "to your health."
That was essentially the point: There are too many people still suffering from Sandy's impact, many still displaced and otherwise suffering from the post traumatic effect of seeing their lives swept away.
It happened in Farmingdale at lunchtime Thursday. The event, held at Cheeburger Cheeburger in the Airport Plaza, was designed to raise funds and awareness for Nassau's Hurricane Recovery fund." During the all-day event, the 1950's-themed burger chain donated 20 percent of each check to the recovery fund. At lunchtime, the place was packed.
The Nassau Hurricane Relief Fund was created by Mangano in November to collect and organize donations and distribute them to victims of Sandy. Priority is given to applicants who are not entitled to reimbursement from FEMA, do not have homeowners or flood insurance and are not receiving assistance from other government relief programs.
On hand at the restaurant Thursday were members of Project Hope.
Media Coordinator Lynn Moskowitz said Project HOPE is a team effort of 12 provider agencies covering Nassau County to provide crisis counseling to residents impacted by Sandy.
The goal of this face-to-face outreach program is to provide emotional support, education, basic counseling and to link survivors to other needed services, Moskowitz said. As of Thursday, Project Hope has provided more than 5,800 individuals with individual/family crisis counseling and thousands more through group counseling and public education and brief sessions offering advice.
Project Hope has trained 1,060 crisis counselors for a total of 38 provider agencies located throughout New York City and Nassau, Rockland, Suffolk and Westchester counties. In all, an estimated 35,000 Nassau County residents have been reached by the program.
The program is staffed by a combination of mental health professionals and paraprofessionals who are from the affected community and are sometimes survivors themselves.
This story is revised from an earlier version to clarify the relationship between Nassau County's Hurricane relief fund and Project Hope.