In the beginning, the turnout was small, a handful of Pleasantville’s powerless answering the generous invitation of the Presbyterian Church to dine free Friday night, in a lighted, heated room for a change. But how do you spread the word to a part of the world gone largely deaf electronically?
Well, somehow people did. The nearby library, which had become a magnet for many and extended its Friday hours accordingly, helped spread the news. So did Facebook and other social media. By 5:30, a half hour after doors officially opened, the handful of diners had grown to a houseful, and still they came to enjoy what volunteer Ruth Fischer, the church’s nursery school director, called “this loaves and fishes sort of thing.”
An eager army of volunteers, students and adults, served pasta and dessert, with coffee, tea and soft drinks. Much of it had been donated, cooked by volunteers in the church kitchen and Frank & Joe’s Deli chipped in a platter of pastries.
"I had this idea about this dinner yesterday morning and Ruth and the pastor were game and the team of volunteers pulled it off so fast that we weren't sure how this would all work out," shared Pleasantville resident Christin Simon Ogyryzlo.
For virtually all of the invited guests, the evening’s dinner was a marked change from their disrupted dinnertimes of the past few days, routines dramatically altered Monday by Hurricane Sandy’s boisterous arrival and their home power’s abrupt departure. No one at the dinner was making any optimistic predictions on when electricity would return to their lives, but they were grateful for Friday’s diversion.
“I’m so glad I came,” said Carol Migliorelli of Hawthorne. “I applaud the Presbyterian Church for putting on this dinner.” Like others at the event, Migliorelli dismissed her current discomfort, focusing instead on the plight of those who were hit even harder elsewhere. “There are so many people worse off than we are,” she said. “I can go a few more days without power.”
Morgan Sullivan, a 17-year-old Pleasantville High School senior, expressed a similar sentiment, even as she considered “one of my first big life experiences.” Her Locust Road home has been without power or even running water since Sandy’s initial lash. Still, her concern focuses on the devastation visited on a poorer nation like the Dominican Republic, where more than 17,500 people were displaced by the storm and 3,500 houses flooded.
Seated beside Morgan, Vitalah Simon still has electricity in her Tompkins Avenue home, thanks to a sturdy power line and fast village response to a fallen tree. But her yoga studio on Legion Drive in Valhalla, YogaShine, does not. Nevertheless, classes will resume next week in facilities made available by the Bedford Road church. “I’m a real small, small business,” Simon noted, “and could never afford the regular rental fees. But they just said ‘make a donation’ to the church.”
For Tara Graham-turner, the church’s invitation meant a sharp, and welcome, departure from this week’s dinnertime routine. “How many times can you do Pizza Hut?” asked the mom in search of kid-friendly eateries in the village. Without power or running water in her Fairview Drive home, she’s looking forward to showers at her husband’s office in Stamford.
By 7 o’clock, the church’s pastor and the diners’ host, the Reverend Dr. Debra J.K. Bronkema, estimated that “hundreds” had responded to the serving line’s pull. The dinner “gave people who wanted to help a place to do so. We had great volunteers,” Pastor Debbie said.
“We’re really happy how it came together,” she said.
Local Editor Sarah Studley contributed to this report.