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Gerritsen Beach spreads love to Gulf Coast

Brooklyn Daily
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It turns out that Hurricane Sandy’s clouds had linings, but silver they are not.

Kids made red, heart ornaments at the Children’s Health Fund’s Valentine’s Day workshop at the Gerritsen Beach library branch on Feb. 5. The crafts are gifts to send to folks in Louisiana as a thanks for their well wishes after the East Coast superstorm.

“Giving and sharing is healing,” said Linda Rizzotto, a social worker with the Children’s Health Fund, and a Gerritsen Beach resident. “We wanted to return them objects that show, ‘We got your message.’ ”

Rizzotto’s organization provides mental health and social service support in areas effected by natural disasters. It has been active in Gerritsen Beach since the 2012 storm, and in Louisiana since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, she said.

The group has been helping victims of the two storms exchange comforting words, she said. It uses activities like the ornament workshop to help make connections among victims and to help children heal, she explained.

“Children continue to have issues long after experiencing a trauma,” said Paula Madrid, a clinical supervisor at the Children’s Health Fund. “One thing we do is try to enhance their resilience through activities.”

About two dozen people showed up to paint and decorate papier-mache hearts, making one for themselves, and one to send south.

“It was a lovely thing,” said Martha Forstner, who brought her 10-year-old son Patrick to the library for the workshop. “You have to pay it forward.”

The Forstner’s home was flooded by seven feet of water after the storm, and the family is still making repairs.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260-8310. E-mail him at mperlman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
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