Sylvia Cooley and her family weren’t among the 50-plus people who stayed overnight on Monday at the Red Cross shelter at Rockland Community College. Shortly after arriving Tuesday morning, they practically had the place to themselves.
The group of residents who stayed overnight at the shelter mostly all left Tuesday morning, although some stayed until after lunch. Cooley, along with her husband, their two-year-old son, her stepdaughter and stepdaughters’ brother, left their Spring Valley home at about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday to head to the shelter. They lost power Monday at about 2 p.m., got it back at 6 p.m. and lost it again around 11 p.m.
“It was just too cold in my house, so we just got in the car and came here,” she said. “It was hard to get here ‘cause there were so many trees and live wires everywhere.”
Cooley and her family spent time playing basketball in the nearly empty fieldhouse, save for volunteers and Red Cross workers.
“They’ve been great,” Cooley said. “They’ve been trying to keep the kids busy with stuff to do so they don’t get bored and they’ve just been helping us. They’ve been coming up to us [asking], do we need extra water, extra food, things like that.”
They weren’t completely alone Tuesday afternoon at the shelter, however. Danny Denver, of Chestnut Ridge, was the lone holdover Tuesday afternoon who stayed overnight Monday. Denver got to the shelter late Monday morning, before his house even lost power due to Hurricane Sandy.
“I was listening to reports and knew that if I waited too long and there was no transportation and my car is in car heaven, there was no way I was ever going to get here,” he said.
He added that he was trying to take a light approach to what was going on.
“If you can make people laugh and get better, even if it’s just the short term, that can be very useful,” he said.
While talking to various others in the shelter Monday and Tuesday, Denver said he usually tried to jump into conversation with a quip or joke based on the situation or something going on. Denver even introduced himself as the professional entertainment to a few people at the shelter.
“The Red Cross and volunteers give comfort, health service and good cheer to people in this situation,” he said. “I’m just trying to bring some humor.”