“You saved Halloween!” said a half-joking Assemblyman Joe Lentol to Angie Nastasi at her Halloween blowout on Wednesday, October 31st.
Just a day earlier, Nastasi awoke, worried that power outages and other Hurricane Sandy damages, could make this year’s Halloween a washout. A few hours later, when news broke that New Jersey had decided to postpone the holiday until Monday, Nastasi sprang into action, hoping to spare neighborhood kids from certain disappointment.
“Four and five year olds don’t understand [the delay],” said Nastasi, the mother of a nine and four year old. “They’ve been waiting for months to wear their costumes. I figured it wouldn’t be a bad idea if we could get something together and if we got everyone on board, we could do this.”
Nastasi posted a feeler on her facebook page to gauge interest in a free Halloween party for kids and was overwhelmed by the response. “All the moms said ‘Oh! That’s a great idea!’ and it just ballooned,” she said. Armed with a small army of volunteers and less than 24 hours until party time, Nastasi set out to find a space. She worked the phones, enlisting the help of community leaders such as Father John Merz of the Church of the Ascension (“He went above and beyond,” said Nastasi), and ultimately connected with Red Star Bar owner Eric Hall who came through with the second floor of his space.
“He’s a wonderful guy!” Nastasi said about Hall’s generosity. Having secured a location, she rushed to the newly created facebook event page and posted “’We got it!’ and it just went crazy! I had moms staying up all night baking cake pops, cupcakes and shopping for candy and decorations.” By 1:30 on Halloween afternoon, volunteers were decorating Red Star, just 90 minutes before the start of the party. “It was insane!” she said. “Everybody came through. It was just amazing!”
At 4:00, nearly 250 kids jammed Red Star eating hot dogs, Grandma Rose’s pizza, donated by Parties on Point’s Rick Atson, and as much candy as they’ve ever had. They played, did arts and crafts and showed off the costumes many said they would not have gotten to wear if not for the event.
As if throwing a kids’ party in less than 24 hours wasn’t enough, Nastasi recognized a second opportunity. With an already massive response and people still asking what they could bring, Nastasi started to suggest bringing a can of food. The result was three truck-fulls of canned food, bottled water and other supplies for residents of Broad Channel and Rockaway who had lost everything in the storm.
“I was moved by seeing the fire in Breezy Point,” she explained. “[My friend] Kim O’Connor has family in Broad Channel and mentioned that they need a lot of stuff there right now.”
Nastasi and friends plan to continue the drive and have recruited several local buildings, including North 6th Street’s The Edge to put out collection bins in their lobbies.