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Local Businesses Help with Sandy Relief

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- While communities waited for official disaster relief, some small-business owners took it upon themselves to help out. On Sunday, Nov. 4, Seth Stern, the CEO and owner of Something Different Party Rental of Paterson, N.J., called Gieto Nicaj, co-owner of Pasha Events, in Manhattan, which was to cater the food for the cancelled marathon.

“He said, “If you have empty trucks, we could send the food out,’” Stern, 42, told ABC News.

With help from Diane Terman Public Relations and Harriette Rose Katz of Gourmet Advisory Services, both of whom galvanized volunteers, Stern deployed four trucks brimming with orange juice, milk, sandwiches, fruit salad and yogurt to Staten Island.

But Stern and his crew were turned away from an OEM site there.  Still, it never occurred to him to leave. “I wanted to distribute it to those who needed it immediately,” he said.

He drove around the destruction zone, certain he would find people in need. He did: Ariana’s Catering Hall, a makeshift shelter in the New Dorp Beach neighborhood of Staten Island, which, along with Midland Beach, had been decimated in the storm.

Like so many others, the help at Ariana’s was also community driven. Not long after the storm hit, Gina Kohm, the banquet manager of Ariana’s Grandof Woodbridge, N.J., and her boss, Frankie DiMattino, transformed the company’s recently acquired New Dorp location into a relief center.

“I called every resource that I possibly could,” Kohm, 24, told ABC News. “We were going up and down streets with carriages, making sure people were getting what they needed. I’ve never experienced anything like this, giving somebody a baggy with toothpaste and a toothbrush and seeing them cry.”

Neither the Red Cross, FEMA nor the OEM returned calls from ABC News. But Josh Lockwood, the chief executive officer for the Red Cross in the New York region, told The New York Times that his organization had “moved as fast as we humanly could, we really did.”

But on Friday afternoon, while talking with a reporter from ABC News, Kohm received a call from the Red Cross, asking her what she needed in Staten Island. “I was like, ‘You got to be kidding me,’” she exclaimed. “This has got to be a joke. This is the Red Cross, and they’re calling citizens who are running things to ask what’s needed? … That’s insane.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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