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Yankees collecting hurricane relief items at Stadium

NEW YORK -- Yankee Stadium's Gate 2 is normally seen filled by fans streaming past turnstiles, but as the New York area recovers from Hurricane Sandy, it has been repurposed into a collection area for donations that are desperately needed.

The Yankees are collecting nonperishable food and household items through the end of the week, with employees staffing the 164th Street and Jerome Avenue entrance 24 hours per day with the intent of quickly sending the goods back out into the community.

"We've started a collection that we've had immediate results from," said Doug Behar, the Yankees' vice president of stadium operations. "People have started dropping off shampoo, socks, hand warmers, diapers; these are all essential products that people in some of these storm devastated areas need right away."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi will be on hand to meet fans with donations from 11 a.m. to noon ET on Wednesday, and CC Sabathia will assist in collecting donations from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Behar's job description entrusts him with overseeing the Stadium's maintenance, but last week's hurricane had little impact on the facility.

He has instead been volunteering in areas of the city where damage has been severe. Behar planned to personally escort another load of supplies to the ravaged community of Far Rockaway, Queens, on Tuesday afternoon.

"It's been incredible. It's been sad," Behar said. "The range of emotions have been all over. It's hard to believe what you're seeing. You can't believe that this is happening in your backyard.

"It's also incredible to see the human spirit where people are helping each other out. We've met and made friends with a lot of volunteers that have lost everything. As one of them said, 'You've got to give to get back.' That kind of stuff just warms your heart."

The Yankees have reached out to several of their sponsors to expand the distribution area of goods to Staten Island, New Jersey, Connecticut and other areas hit by the storm.

"Even though a week has passed, the tragedy of the hurricane endures for many residents of the metropolitan area," Yankees chief operating officer Lonn Trost said.

"In addition to the many loved ones who were lost, people have been left without homes, food and the basic necessities," Trost said. "We hope our efforts support and show solidarity with those who are bravely dealing with heartbreaking circumstances."

The Yankees have already made a $500,000 donation to the American Red Cross for hurricane relief. Initial response to the stadium donation drive has been encouraging, and Behar said that any and all help from the community will be welcome.

"I think it starts with warm jackets and blankets, gloves, cleaning products," Behar said. "Many of these areas still don't have light. It gets dark very early. Some of these buildings have dark hallways and stairwells, even during the day. Batteries, lanterns, anything like that is certainly critical."

Behar said that he and many others who work for the Yankees organization were reminded of their good fortune by Sandy's impact and are embracing the opportunity to give back to the community.

"This organization has always represented helping people," Behar said. "It's the mission of the Steinbrenners. I'm very fortunate to work in an organization that allows me and others to get out and do these things, and hopefully make a difference, small as it may be."