Gimme Shelter

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.

Long Lots School

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.”

6 responses to “Gimme Shelter

  1. Way to go! Our dept of human services and police, volunteer cert , custodians, chart wells and plain folk did an amazing job!

  2. Ned gives credit to many deserving folk. But, typical Ned, doesn’t give himself the credit and respect that he earns in this town.

  3. You know, Dan, this blog is a perfect example for the answer I give people who sometimes ask me, ‘Why does God make us suffer so much in our lives?” and I say, “First of all, God doesn’t make or create torment, evil or pain, but He allows it to happens so that a Greater Good may come about.” Your story nailed it and is a perfect example of this…thank you, Dan and Thank you Mr. Imperialti. I’ve never meet you personally, I don’t believe, but I have to say I applause you and your dedication to your work and to those whom you provided meals during this difficult time. This is a great town, filled with good people. Thank you for sharing another perfect example of the Greater Good.

  4. Cathy (Smith) Barnett

    I am posting this on behalf of my 93 old mother who stayed at the Long Lots Shelter. She is grateful for having this facility nearby. A week ago Sunday she went to the shelter rather than wait until the weather got really bad on Monday and Tuesday. During the storm a very large tree branch fell on her garage roof and I am so thankful that she was not at home when it happened. The Red Cross wouldn’t let her go home on Weds. so she spent a free night at the Westport Inn . She was able to return home on Thurs. The tree service cleared the tree branch and CLP came to take care of the downed wires and restore power. Thank you LL shelter, Red Cross and CLP!

    • Mary Ann West

      Thank you Cathy, yes the Red Cross was at the shelter, but the credit for the extended housing goes to Westport’s Human Services, they had a great team working overtime to help Westporters get through the storm. Also snaps to WASA & CERT for their help with the pet shelter!

  5. Cathy (Smith) Barnett

    Am sorry I don’t know the tree service involved, one of the unsung heroes of the storm. When I talked to him during the week at my mother’s house, his pantslegs were all muddy from helping down at Saugatuck Shores all night. He said it was a disaster area!