Staten Island, one of the areas hardest-hit by the devastating and lingering effects of Hurricane Sandy, is more than 700 miles from La Grange—but Jack Kielczynski is hoping to bridge that distance with the help of a truckful of relief supplies.
Kielczynski, a Navy veteran, retired police officer and 26-year La Grange Highlands resident, plans to fill a rented 16-foot Penske truck with the sort of stuff Sandy’s victims desperately need and personally deliver it to New York. He’ll leave on Monday in order to reach Staten Island by Thanksgiving, and fly home later.
“I just couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have my entire life just washed away in 20 minutes,” Kielczynski said. “Every time I watched the news it got a little worse… I can’t bring back their photos or any of that, but maybe I can help put their lives back together.”
Before Monday, though, there’s a truck to fill—with warm coats and blankets, non-perishable foods, toiletries and diapers, toys, batteries and other critical supplies—and that’s where the La Grange-area communities have rallied behind him.
Q-BBQ has designated a spot for the truck to park until Monday, with a public banner calling for donations. La Grange’s Sign of the Cross Christian Ministries has signed on as an associated 501-3C. (Both organizations have also donated.) Horton’s, The Hotdog Company, La Grange Theatre, Impact Dance Studio, Infinity Signs and Graphics, Nickson’s and 1111 West Design have all pitched in. The New York Tenors (including Kielczynski’s friend Daniel Rodriguez) even picked up the cost of the truck and gas.
“It’s taking off like a skyrocket. I can’t believe it,” marveled Kielczynski, adding that his task would be impossible without the community’s help. “I’m hearing from people that I never thought I would hear from again ... I am just so heartened that the community came together so much.”
“We just loved the idea,” said Michael LaPidus, owner of Q-BBQ, adding his own praise for the local business community. “It’s nice to send out an email to 25 of your fellow business owners, and the next day they’re coming together … and helping us fill a truck.”
It won’t be the first time Kielczynski has traveled to New York for an important cause. In the aftermath of 9/11, he went to serve as an officer in the funerals of servicemen who died in the attack and rescue operations (where he met Rodriguez.)
And Kevin Simon, minister of music at Sign of the Cross and the project’s backup driver if necessary, said that Kielczynski and his wife Marge (a 30-plus year member of the La Grange force) are regular leaders in local charitable giving.
“Through the years, they’ve always been there for people,” Simon said. “Marge and Jack have a lot of good friends in good places. Whenever the need goes out, they make some calls, and then we make calls—just this little group that is concerned.”
Kielczynski said that the supply truck might offer residents a more tangible method of giving to Sandy’s victims than sending money to relief organizations—without discouraging any of the latter, of course.
His early success has fueled his search; he is continuing to appeal to other La Grange-area organizations and community members to help fill the truck—perhaps more than one truck, if the exponential growth in support continues. New ideas are rising as well: For instance, that local elementary schoolchildren might write letters to displaced New York kids.
“I’d like to thank all of Lyons Township, the village of La Grange, the businesses," Kielczynski said. "It’s amazing how the village is coming together."
Anyone interested in donating to the supply-truck mission can contact Kielczynski at this e-mail address.