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STORM VICTIMS: Boxer Sonya Lamonakis Lends Support

How You Can Help Hurricane Sandy Victims!

“Superstorm Sandy” was a deadly force last week in delivering a KO punch to the East Coast and beyond, wreaking havoc upon millions across the region. In an effort to bring continued awareness to the plight of those who have lost everything, I am dedicating this latest “Chatter Box” column to the survivors of this vicious hurricane.

While we on the West Coast are guilty of enjoying 93 degree weather and taking for granted those $5 Frappuccinos, those affected in New York, New Jersey, and various other states are struggling just to survive, sustaining on whatever they can find, praying to stay warm in freezing temps.

It has been one week since Hurricane Sandy hit and assistance is still painfully slow in many cities. There is a gas shortage, looting, transportation snafus, bodies still being found amidst piles of debris. Mother Nature was at her cruelest with the death toll reaching over 110; New York has been the target of the harshest conditions.

What can we do to help? Today (November 5) has been declared a “A DAY OF GIVING” by Disney, ABC and the American Red Cross. Let’s continue to put the victims on the front page and not forget those recovering from the aftermath of the storm.

Taking to social media, we CAN reach out to others whose daily routines have been ripped apart by this tragic storm. I spoke to a New York boxer today to hear firsthand what the current situation is like.

Unbeaten heavyweight SONYA “The Scholar” LAMONAKIS (7-0-2) has lived in New York for seven years and trains out of the legendary Gleason’s Gym. She is in Harlem, just 20 minutes away from the worst effects left after the storm–yet she is a world away from the devastation that surrounds her. The school teacher and prizefighter is on a crusade, along with Gleason’s, to reach out and help those who need it the most. The famed gym has created an Outreach Center to the victims of Sandy.

Lives are in shambles, people need help–and they need help now. SO WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP? At the conclusion of our conversation, I’ve listed two links that will provide assistance. Please do what you can to help. Every bit counts.

Listen in on my exclusive interview with the Greek warrior as Lamonakis explains the heartbreaking circumstances affecting the city she loves.

Michele Chong: Hi Sonya, thanks for taking time out to talk. I’m glad you’re okay; I know it’s been a tragedy for so many. Can you tell me about the latest conditions in the city?

Sonya Lamonakis: Hi Michele. In some places it’s total devastation; Breezy Point 110 houses gone, only foundations left. Bodies are being pulled out of houses– they couldn’t get out and drowned in their own house. There is still a gas shortage and when you have donations you can’t even get gas to drive to where the needs are; taxis in line waiting for gas, the tracks are flooded, grocery stores are cleaned out, transportation is a mess! And that’s just New York…New Jersey Shore is a mess, Cuba even got hit badly too. It will take a long time for the city to recover.

MC: Do you feel the media has depicted the situation correctly?

SL: Yes, we have a channel here called New York One (NY1) that shows the news 24/7 about what’s going on here. The first three days were the worst; help was slow in coming. But it’s still not getting better, it’s taking a long time. People are struggling in this catastrophe. And now on Wednesday, there’s another storm due to hit with coastal flooding. Morale is low; people are devastated. They’ve lost everything.

MC: Why do you think help is slow in coming?

SL: FEMA and the Red Cross have been helping but progress is just so slow. We’ve been deeply impacted. Coney Island, Staten Island, Long Island, Rockaway, it’s all bordered by water so it’s harder to get the supplies out here. In Breezy Point, 110 houses burned, a whole community is gone. And it’s cold, freezing here. You can only put so many layers of clothing on but you still freeze.

MC: Tell me about how you and all the boxers and trainers at Gleason’s have gathered together to help.

SL: Yes, we’ve been volunteering and doing anything we can. We are collecting donations, allowing people to take hot showers, and charge their electronics. We want to get the word out about donations. People have been donating canned goods but with no power, they can’t be used!

MC: What is the #1 supply you guys need right now?

SL: Bottled water! We have no clean drinking water. We also need rubber gloves and sturdy trash bags for the clean up. They are breaking their backs trying to clean the mess. There is so much debris. Rockaway Point in Queens has piles of sand on the streets that look like they should be piles of snow! And people taking advantage–looting–taking the bus to get free supplies when they were not even damaged.

MC: With the NYC Marathon cancelled, how did that impact the city?

SL: It was great to have them help–they picked up trash and they didn’t forget about us. All the people that came to the marathon (about 2,000) ran four laps around Central Park in a tribute. And they really helped in the clean-up efforts.

MC: And for you personally, how are you doing?

SL: I’m okay personally since I’m in Harlem and we didn’t lose power, it just flickered on and off. But trying to drive a few blocks to take donations took over two hours! It’s just total gridlock. And there’s a huge gas shortage. One one side is to fill up the canisters for generators; the other side is for cars. But by the time you get to fill up, they’re out of gas.

MC: I commend you on the job you are doing in volunteering your time. I saw your posts and was inspired to help.

SL: Thank you! I am also involved in WBC Cares and helping others through that charity and I do as much as I can to give back.

MC: Switching gears a bit, you fought in September and remain undefeated. Do you have a fight lined up?

SL: Yes, I will be training for a fight for an NABF title hopefully by mid-Spring. I’m working with Marco Suarez.

MC: Your nickname is “The Scholar” and I bet a lot of people don’t know you’re a working school teacher!

SL: (Laughs) I’ve been a teacher for 13 years. I started boxing when I was 27 and was an amateur for eight years. I won the Golden Gloves four times. But as a heavyweight it’s harder to get fights so that’s why I waited to go pro. I’m now ranked #1; I’m signed with Lou DiBella–and I was the very first female he signed!

MC: Sonya, I think you’re a champion in helping others during this crisis. Thanks again for chatting with me and good luck with all the clean-up efforts!

SL: Thank you for writing this story. If people read this, maybe they will help–it CAN make a difference!

New Yorker Sonya Lamonakis (a Springfield, Massachusetts transplant) and so many of these NY residents have proved to be true champions in their crusade to help Hurricane Sandy victims. These citizens are in dire straits. Rebuilding will take time but progress can be made one step at a time.

To Help: www.gerritsenbeach.net/2012/11/01/how-to-help-us
American Red Cross www.redcross.org

Photos courtesy of Team Lamonakis

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