BATH — While watching the impact of Hurricane Sandy on parts of New York City on TV, Tiffany Dauphin decided to turn off the television, get some supplies and a crew, and bring support to the victims.
Doing so has changed the Bath woman’s life.
“I wanted to help, but I couldn’t; I don’t make very much money,” Dauphin said on Monday, following her second trip to the city. “My car is hardly even running. But I realized that it didn’t matter, that I had to try to do something.”
Unable to turn away from news reports of homes washed away, and people hurt and without power, she posted a message on Facebook asking if she’d be crazy to pack up her car and bring supplies to those in need. The immediate response was more than encouraging: People saying they would donate, or offering to accompany her to New York.
Soon Dauphin was receiving money and food.
“It just started becoming bigger and bigger and bigger,” she said. “The community just really helped out.”
With a vehicle that she said couldn’t go past Brunswick, Dauphin needed transportation, and a place to bring the donations. Enterprise Rent-A-Car lowered the cost of a rental van for her mission, and Open Bible Baptist Church in West Bath directed her to people in New York who could accept donations and also paid for the van on the first trip.
Among the many businesses to donate to the cause – which was dubbed the Hurricane Sandy Relief Effort of Maine – were Brackett’s Market, Big Al’s, The Oriental Restaurant, Gediman’s Appliances, the Miss Brunswick Diner, Pizza Hut, Spare Time Bowling, Dunkin’ Donuts, Jr’s Auto Glass, Midcoast Pizza and More, Shaw’s, Wags and Whiskers, Baby Buy Low, the Jesse Albert clinic, and Cross Insurance. The West Bath Fire Department has also donated to the cause.
Dauphin and her crew dropped off supplies first at the International Baptist Church in Brooklyn, and then went to aid an apartment building at Coney Island, where they encountered scenes like cars sitting on 10 feet of sand, dropped there by the ocean, and people without much to begin with having even less in the wake of the storm.
The second trip took the crew to the Fellowship Baptist Church of Coney Island, and to a nearby community called Sea Gate.
The grateful people they encountered, including about 100 with their hands out in front of a church, were surprised that help would come all the way from Maine.
“We said, ‘well, there was a need … you’re human beings, you need to eat, so we’re coming down; we’re going to help you out,'” Dauphin said.
Further trips, to bring necessities and – closer to Christmas – toys, have also been planned. Crew members in the first two trips included Steve Wilhelm, Jennifer Peoples, Sarah Brockman, Autumn Snyder, and Natoni and Brandon Varnum.
“This was really a 100 percent community effort that has continued,” Dauphin said. “And we’re actually hoping that this will become more (for) disaster relief, period. Not just for Hurricane Sandy, but … for any disaster.”
She said the experience has clearly changed her life.
“It’s opened my eyes to being more appreciative of what I have,” Dauphin said. “I may not have a lot, but I have a lot more than others. … It’s just that simple to reach out and touch somebody’s life, even when you don’t have anything yourself. … (It) basically just boils down to loving somebody that you don’t know.
“It wasn’t what we brought to them,” she added. “It was the fact we told them that they mattered.”