D.C. man lends a hand in Sandy disaster zone

Dick Uliano, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – The presidential election may have nudged Superstorm Sandy recovery from the spotlight, but it is entering its second week today in New York City and along the New Jersey shore.

The disaster remains paramount for an out-of-work D.C. man, who filled a U- haul rental truck with clothing and other supplies and drove up this weekend to help storm victims on his native Staten Island.

“I’m just happy to help,” says Phil Tsolakidis, who is between jobs in sales and marketing.

“If I was working right now, I wouldn’t be able to do something like this. It’s very rare for something like this to happen and I’m just happy to be able to contribute a little bit.”

Reached on his cellphone, Tsolakidis took a break to talk about the work he has done.

After delivering clothing and other supplies he collected from family, friends and neighbors, Tsolakidis said he will spend Election Day the same way he spent Monday – helping to clean out the storm-soaked homes of those swamped by Superstorm Sandy.

“Clearing out this house I just came from, the ceiling was completely soaked through, so the waterline was a good eight feet high,” says Tsolakidis.

He doesn’t contact people specifically to offer help. Instead, he roams the streets of hard-hit Staten Island and pitches in wherever he can.

“It was me and five other guys just helping out. Three (were) from the neighborhood, two of them were marathon runners that I randomly met on the street (from L.A. and Toronto) and we just walked around together helping people.”

Tsolakidis’ original plan was to return home today to D.C., but he says he has changed his mind.

“I was hoping to come back to D.C. to vote, but I think this is a little more important,” Tsolakidis says, deciding to keep working in the disaster zone rather than cast his vote in the hotly-contested presidential race.

While he’s seen extensive damage, Tsolakidis is surprised at how well people are coping.

“It seems to me like people understand the situation and are moving forward,” Tsolakidis says.

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