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Helping their own: Gerritsen Beach opens their hearts to five victims

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At first, Jim Donovan was surprised by the outpouring of support his neighbors have given the Hayes family as they recover from a devastating fire that left their lives in shambles.

Then, he remembered, he lives in Gerritsen Beach.

“It’s amazing what this neighborhood can do,” reflected Donovan as he spoke from the Cort Club, which has become an impromptu home base for all the clothing, food and other items residents have been dropping off for Tom Hayes, his wife Phyllis and children Lindsay, 19, Tommy Jr., 10, and Gianna, age 5.

The Bevy Court family were left homeless Monday afternoon when a raging fire ripped through their home near Channel Avenue.

Friends said that Phyllis had just left the home to pick up her children from school at 2:40 p.m. when the two alarm blaze flared up.

When they returned, the home was engulfed in flames. Over 100 firefighters were dousing down the fire, which was finally put under control at 3:39 p.m. even though a frozen over johnny pump hampered their efforts.

FDNY officials said that three firefighters suffered injuries as they beat back the flames. A neighborhood resident was also brought to Coney Island Hospital with minor injuries. The exact cause of the fire was still under investigation as this paper went to press.

While the Hayes family survived the ordeal unscathed, they lost everything, said Donovan, a relative who was in their shoes once before.

“I went through the same thing about fifteen years ago,” he said. “I’m still recovering.”

Yet within hours, Gerritsen Beach residents began banding together to help the Hayes family, who are currently staying at a relative’s home.

Residents from all over the beach have been dropping off bags of clothes for the family. The website Gerritsenbeach.net has also been a big help, distributing the clothing sizes of all family members. There is also a “donate here” button on the site where residents can send a few dollars.

In a day, over $1000 had been collected, Donovan said, adding that Gerritsen Beach natives who now live as far away as California have been in contact, expressing their interest in either sending or donating something.

And still the supplies continue to pour in.

“We dropped off seven bags that we collected here last night,” he said. “Right now we have two more bags. Even more people are dropping off bags of stuff on Bevy Court.”

As this paper went to press, Gerritsen Beach residents were expected to come out in droves to a special $25 a head fund-raiser at the Tamaqua Bar slated for January 30 -- final proof that the Gerritsen Beach relief effort has kicked into high gear. It’s something City Councilmember Lew Fidler expected from proud Beach residents.

“[The amazing showing of support] doesn’t surprise me at all,” he said. “That’s the kind of neighborhood Gerritsen Beach is. When someone is in need they come together. They have a very open heart.”

Donations, both fiscal or otherwise, are still being collected at the Cort Club, 2648 Gerritsen Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11229, care of Jim Donovan/Hayes Family. Anyone wishing to know more can contact the Cort Club at (718) 769-7168.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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