Long Lots Elementary School serves as Westport’s emergency shelter. With dire predictions of Hurricane Sandy bearing down last Sunday, staff and volunteers were ready to prepare for a surge of evacuees.
But first, there was a Halloween party for kids.
Custodians assured emergency workers that they could set up after the party. They wanted the children to have fun.
The kids did. And indeed, the shelter was ready in time.
That’s just one of the feel-good stories told by Ned Batlin. A Westport police officer — and much-loved DARE official — he spent several days at Long Lots last week, overseeing security and pitching in as much as everyone else there.
“Human Services, Red Cross, CERT volunteers, the custodial staff — they were phenomenal,” Ned says. “They worked around the clock, day after day.”
He cites too Long Lots’ custodial staff: Pat Hayden (head), Peter Barcello and Patrick Rodgers.
Chartwells — Westport Public Schools’ food service provider — was “fantastic,” Ned says.
Executive chef Ritch Imperiati never left. “He slept in his car every night. He made sure there were 3 hot meals a day, from Sunday night through Wednesday afternoon. And there was chips, juice and water, 24/7,” says Ned.
“It was a great group effort. One of the food servers — who also never left — played with kids in the gym in between her shifts.”
The first night, nearly 90 Westporters slept at Long Lots. As the storm raged, all the cots were in the hallways. Officials feared the gym’s windows might not withstand such high winds.
On Tuesday night, 50 people slept in the gym.
Others stopped in just for meals or coffee. One man came to charge his ankle monitor. (His probation officer told him to.)
Social workers from Human Services were always on duty. Department members Barbara Butler, Patty Haberstroh, Elaine Daignault and Kevin Godburn made sure things ran smoothly. There was also a nurse at all times.
“So many people came together to make people’s lives a little easier,” Ned marvels. “It was fantastic to see.”