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Staten Island Giving Circle, with Watertown roots, helps after Sandy

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A Watertown native who has won awards for her charitable work on Staten Island hasn’t had much rest the past few weeks as she continues a calling she discovered in retirement and which has been especially appreciated after Hurricane Sandy.

Oakwood resident Evelyn (Beattie) Kormanik’s home escaped serious damage from Hurricane Sandy, which hit the East Coast on Oct. 28.

“The major damage is three of four blocks below us,” Mrs. Kormanik said Nov. 16. “But the water did come right up to our house. Our neighbors got ruined, but our house was just enough higher.”

Mrs. Kormanik, a 1966 graduate of Watertown High School and a1968 graduate of Jefferson Community College, said the predicted damage from the hurricane was something many Staten Island residents thought was unthinkable.

“It was such a bizarre idea that anything like this would happen,” she said. “Many of them didn’t leave. I think 24 were found drowned right down here at the end of my street.”

After the storm, Mrs. Kormanik, who lost electricity for four days, went to work. She had many resources and contacts at her disposal.

In January 2008, Mrs. Kormanik formed the Giving Circle, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of those in need on Staten Island.

“I needed a New Year resolution that year,” she said. “I read in a magazine about a similar program.”

Mrs. Kormanik contacted neighbors, book club and tennis club co-members and previous co-workers. Her Staten Island Giving Circle now has almost 300 members.

In 2010, the Giving Circle received the Staten Island Project Hospitality Award for Distinguished Community Service. Earlier this year, Mrs. Kormanik was named a 2012 Woman of Achievement by the Staten Island Advance newspaper for her success in helping others.

After Hurricane Sandy, the Staten Island Giving Circle set up a drop-off location for donated goods at the Oakwood Heights Veterans of Foreign Wars post.

“It’s like a huge, huge flea market,” Mrs. Kormanik said.

To stock it, she depended on her connections, which developed serendipitously over the years.

cruising to success

A few years ago, she won an essay contest sponsored by Cabot Creamery in Vermont.

“They wanted to find people all over the U.S. who did volunteer work and treat them to a cruise,” Mrs. Kormanik said.

She joined 51 fellow volunteers on the trip.

“I met these other people from all over the country and made connections,” Mrs. Kormanik said.

Cabot invited her to be a speaker on a cruise to Alaska in September. There she met officials from the Alabama-based disaster relief group Toomer’s for Tuscaloosa.

After the hurricane, a crew from that Alabama group traveled to Staten Island and worked with the Giving Circle. “Four of them stayed with me,” Mrs. Kormanik said. “They brought two 26-foot trucks full of supplies.”

On Friday, she planned to welcome a contingent of more than a dozen workers from Habitat for Humanity from Ohio.

“Habitat is going to start in my small area because I knew this guy,” Mrs. Kormanik said. “They are going to start the rebuilding for some of these folks.”

Her agency’s website also was built by someone she met on her first Cabot cruise — former football player Dwight Owens of Mississippi. Partially paralyzed in 2005 when he was struck by a drunken driver, now he is a motivational speaker.

“I’ve met unbelievable people,” she said.

On Nov. 10, a crew of 20 workers from Cabot Creamery arrived to volunteer.

“They brought a Ryder truck and a couple of cars full of stuff,” Mrs. Kormanik said.

An owner of a Vermont ski area also sent a tractor-trailer full of supplies.

“I’d been referred to her from somebody,” she said.

For Thanksgiving, the Giving Circle served 800 dinners.

“The girls from Alabama (Toomer’s) are giving us turkeys, ham, stuffing and Cool Whip!” she said.

The Giving Circle has organized a Dec. 15 community Christmas sing-along in front of the Oakwood Heights VFW. A Christmas tree will be lit in tribute to “strength, resiliency and community” and as a “thank-you” to responders.

“We’ve distributed food, shovels, diapers and supplies; now we’d like to provide a little something for the victims’ souls,” Mrs. Kormanik noted in the event’s flier.

Journey from watertown

Mrs. Kormanik is the daughter of the late Rodger and Margaret J. Beattie of Watertown. Margaret was a longtime Latin teacher at Watertown High School. Her father, a salesman and World War II veteran, died in his 50s.

In 1973, Mrs. Kormanik began working for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, Region 6, at the State Office Building. In 1980, she took a “lateral transfer” to DEC’s Albany office. It was there that she met her future husband, Michael, of Brooklyn, who was the regional air pollution control engineer for New York City.

They retired about 10 years ago.

Mrs. Kormanik said she developed her empathy for helping others while growing up in Watertown and her association with youngsters at the Children’s Home of Jefferson County.

“I went to school at the (John C.) Thompson School with these kids and all through junior and senior high school,” Mrs. Kormanik said. “I just always had such compassion for them. I would give them my belongings.”

She added, “I’ve always had this empathy for people with less luck or less fortune.”

to donate

Mrs. Kormanik said anyone interested in donating to her Staten Island Giving Circle should consider cash, which will be converted into gift cards to be used at home improvement stores.

Besides the drop-off location, Giving Circle volunteers are also going into storm-affected areas to distribute goods.

“The population that got most affected, they were poor to start with,” Mrs. Kormanik said. “These houses that were so close to the water were bungalows, like camps, but made into year-round houses.”

To donate to the Staten Island Giving Circle, go to its website, www.statenislandgivingcircle.com, or write to the organization, in care of Mrs. Kormanik at 240 Guyon Ave., Oakwood, Staten Island, N.Y. 10306.


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