BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — John Donnery has been delivering UPS packages in Brooklyn Heights for over 20 years. Well-known and loved in the neighborhood, locals talk about him working on his weekend off to help build a ramp for the elderly, always offering to carry heavy packages up the stairs, and his pleasant conversation and sweet friendship.
Some have even left the trusted deliveryman front keys to their homes to leave packages in their absence.
Soon after Hurricane Sandy, residents heard the sad news that Donnery's Gerritsen Beach home had been destroyed — and now they are looking to help him.
A week after the storm and back on his route, he slowly began to talk to neighbors about his loss.
“His house was flooded with four feet of water,” said resident Jean Harvey. “He lost a great deal.”
Donnery said that he was unable to go home for nearly 10 weeks. During that time the insurance company did not show up to assess the damages. Donnery knew that he had to rebuild himself, so he worked days on the route and nights on his home. Neighbors said he looked tired and thin from working round the clock.
“Even though he doesn’t live here, he was a neighbor in need,” said Harvey.
Residents, churches, and local businesses started a campaign to raise money for Donnery's home. Brooklyn Women’s Exchange along Donnery's route encouraged former Brooklyn Heights resident and contractor Frank Defalco and his crew to go out to Donnery’s house and help rebuild the demolished structure. They gladly drove to Gerritsen Beach to lend a hand.
"They took care of us," he said. "It pays to have friends in high places, literally."
Meanwhile Grace Episcopal Church and Plymouth Church began to accept donations in Donnery's name.
“It hits your heart when you hear about something like this happening to someone you know,” said Amy Calcott of Grace Church. “John is such a wonderful person, we want to do all we can to help.”
Resident Donna Whiteford agreed that the community needed to help out. She facilitated gathering donations in her co-op and hopes that their efforts have offered Donnery some solace.
“This is a small community,” she said. “We take care of each other.”
Linda Alperin of the Brooklyn's Women Exchange called Donnery the Santa Claus of the neighborhood.
"He delivers packages with a smile," she said. "Seeing John's face brightens the day."
"He is part of our family," she added.