NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - A company that knows firsthand about loss has 'adopted' families who lost their homes and other possessions in superstorm Sandy.
Cantor Fitzgerald, the financial services firm that lost 658 employees in the Sept. 11 terror attacks, announced Thursday that it will hand out a total of $10 million to the families in 19 schools across the region most affected by Sandy.
The fund will provide a $1,000 debit card to every family.
Cantor Fitzgerald Announces $10 Million Relief Effort For Sandy Victims
Recipients of the debit cards said it felt like winning the lottery.
"It was a little too good to be true but it's a blessing," Far Rockaway resident Tahaira Arcy told WCBS 880's Marla Diamond. "It's a blessing. I'm jumping for joy inside, I'm trying to hold my composure."
The mother of three young children lost everything in Sandy.
"It'll actually help me out to get my son's mattress now," she told Diamond.
"I'm overwhelmed. Really, I didn't expect this and it's really making me feel so happy," another mother told Diamond.
The Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund plans to hand out $1,000 to every family in the 19 schools, located in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Long Island and New Jersey.
Lutnick said he learned after 9/11 that help should come with no strings attached.
"You put money in the hands of parents, the parents are going to do the best thing. If they need a new couch for their home, that's fine. But maybe they just take their kids to Toys R Us and buy them a toy and make them smile," Lutnick told Diamond.
The relief fund was established after 9/11 to provide aid to the families of Cantor employees who died in the attacks. The fund has since expanded to benefit charities around the world.
"We believe strongly that the very, very best way to help families is to put direct financial money in their hands and let them decide how best to spend it," fund chairwoman Edie Lutnick told Diamond.
The schools selected for the $10 million in aid are in areas where Cantor employees live or have other connections, according to the company.
"We're really excited that we have the opportunity to help the families from these 19 schools to let them know that communities matter and that we care,'' Edie Lutnick said.
Cantor Fitzgerald was headquartered on floors 101 to 105 of One World Trade Center on 9/11. Two-thirds of the company's New York workforce was lost in the attacks.
Edie and Howard Lutnick's brother Gary was among those killed in the terror attacks.
Every year on Sept. 11, Cantor donates its revenues from the day to charity and employees donate their day's pay. Last year, the effort brought in $12 million.
"We wanted to have a way that we could memorialize those that we lost in a way that was positive, and to do good things,'' Edie Lutnick said.
Cantor was affected by Sandy as well. The company's Water Street office has still not reopened since the storm hit and the 500 employees have been relocated to the Midtown headquarters.
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