TOWNSEND -- Never forget. That is the message Townsend resident Heather Dinitto is hoping to spread.
Though the victims of Hurricane Sandy, which struck New York with a fury a few days before Halloween, may no longer be in the news with as much frequency, they are still victims and they are still in need, said Dinitto. Their homes are still demolished. Their belongings are still forever lost. Their lives are still irrevocably altered by the violence of the storm that tore through the state.
"They need ongoing efforts because so many people lost everything," said Dinitto. "People forget that they need ongoing help; it's not just a one-time thing."
That is why Dinitto is taking it upon herself to do something to help.
Dinitto, owner of Key Performance Entertainment and Events, is hosting a karaoke fundraiser for the victims of Hurricane Sandy on Jan. 17 in Cafe 57 and Lounge in Ashburnham. The event will run from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. and will feature karaoke, raffles and free appetizers. Beau Richards, winner of the Sing to Win Karaoke Competition in Leominster, will also be performing.
There is a $5 cover charge; however, attendees can also bring an item to donate and get in for free. Items needed are clothing, toiletries, non-perishable food, baby items, cleaning supplies and manageably sized pieces of furniture. Dinitto is also looking for businesses who are willing to donate items to be raffled, as well as volunteers to help work the event.
Dinitto is partnering with the Carlton Locksley Bennett Foundation in New York City for the event. On Jan. 19, she will be personally delivering the donations to the foundation.
"The main thing we want to emphasize is that everybody has piece of used clothing or a canned good," said Dinitto. "We're trying to get people to give what they already have. I'd even be willing to go pick it up."
When someone suggested to Dinitto that she use her event-planning skills to host a Hurricane Sandy relief fundraiser, she knew immediately who to call to get started: Her sister, who lives in New York City and works at the Department of Social Services.
"She has a lot of resources working in the field she's in," said Dinitto.
Dinitto's sister connected her with Maxine Lewis, founder of the Carlton Locksley Bennett Foundation.
Lewis started the foundation in 2009 in memory of her 16-year-old son, who was killed in 1993, a victim of gun violence.
"He was murdered for the gold chain he was wearing around his neck," said Lewis.
To honor his memory, Lewis started the foundation, which awards scholarships to children affected by crime and violence.
"This woman turned a tragedy into something good," said Dinitto.
Then, said Lewis, came Hurricane Sandy.
"I needed to do something for these victims," said Lewis.
She partnered with another organization, Not Another Child, to hold a Thanksgiving dinner for those affected by Hurricane Sandy. Hundreds of residents came for the enormous holiday feast and other organizations participated in handing out clothing and food to the victims.
When Lewis heard about Dinitto's mission, she was delighted to be able to participate, and Dinitto was equally as pleased to be partnered with the foundation.
"She's a great lady. I'm honored to be helping her any way I can," said Dinitto.
On a personal level, Lewis said she knows several people were affected by Sandy's rage.
"One of the women I work with right here in the agency, her house was one of the houses that lost everything," said Lewis.
More than anything, said Lewis, people need places to live.
"People need a place to lay their head, a warm house," she said. "Money would help, but who has that much money to donate?"
The organization is accepting any donations that people are willing to give. Dinitto is donating her daughter's bicycle.
"If we get so many donations that I need to rent a Uhaul, I'll do that and pay for it out of pocket," said Dinitto. "These people have to rebuild everything, so anything helps."
After Dinitto brings down what she collects from the fundraiser, the foundation will be delivering the items directly to the relief efforts.
"As long as we can help somebody," said Lewis, "that's the important thing."
For more information, Dinitto can be contacted at 978-597-3141 or firstname.lastname@example.org.