Comics convention will benefit Bethany Congregational Church in East Rockaway

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When East Rockaway firefighters realized that their firehouse on Main Street was not large enough to function as a relief center after Hurricane Sandy, Pastor Mark Lukens volunteered to use Bethany Congregational Church as a gathering place.

“We were in the middle of all this devastation,” Lukens said. “We did what we could.”

Now, the church is looking for support from neighbors at its inaugural HurriCON event, which will feature comic books and toys for sale. The event is being thrown as a way to raise money to replace the wooden floors at the gymnasium.

For more than nine weeks after Sandy, tables of food and clothing items lined the church’s gym. Whenever the relief center would run low on supplies, Lukens created a Facebook post, and people from across the country would donate a variety of items to the church.

The relief center drew hundreds of residents, who were able to get batteries, diapers, clothing, boots, flashlights and food from the church. “People who lost everything came in and walked out with what they needed to get on with their lives,” said David Donovan, a member of the church’s board of trustees and the Bethany Mens’ Club.

But the floor took a beating from the increased traffic. It was scratched up and destroyed from raw sewage that flooded into the church, as well as mud and dirt that was tracked in by those coming to get supplies.

As the years went by, church officials could not find time to replace the floorboards. The Parish Hall was being used by a variety of groups throughout the years, including Next Step Ministries and the Kiwanis Club.

“There was never an open two weeks to get the floor done,” Donovan said.

That is, he said, until this past summer, when Bethany Church had to pay more than $5,000 to get the floor replaced.

“We’re hoping that we could get some of it back,” Lukens said, adding that he would prefer to use the money for other ministries.

So, congregants came together and organized a convention. Some congregants are making food, including a taco-in-a-bag, and David Donovan reached out to a company that organizes conventions throughout Long Island. But, he said, he was told that the space was too small to hold a convention.

His wife, Linda, then told him that he should organize the convention himself. So, Donovan reached out to local comic book stores and artists on social media. Jason Sidelman, the owner of Island Collectibles in Island Park, said he would help out.

“I felt that I owed it to the community,” said Sidelman, who lives in East Rockaway.

At the inaugural HurriCON on Saturday, Sidelman will have a table with $5 comics and $5 toys. The HurriCON will also feature works from local artists, food and raffles. All of the proceeds from the event are going back to Bethany, but the vendors  will keep what they make from the sales.

The event is $5 at the door, but any child under the age of 12 who comes in a costume will be admitted for free. For more information about the HurriCON, visit facebook.com/HurriCon.