By Susan Kim*
A thousand Early Response Team (ERT) members working in severely damaged homes on Long Island alone.
Four thousand cleaning buckets handed directly to storm survivors in New Jersey’s hardest-hit coastal towns — and thousands more given across the rest of the state.
Three thousand hot meals served from a single church in the devastated city of Crisfield, Md.
One month after the hurricane-turned-Superstorm Sandy hit, it’s possible to summarize the church’s response in numbers, though these statistics are ever-changing as relief efforts continue in earnest.
But the numbers — impressive as they are — show only the tiniest façade of the story.
Sometimes, the number most on the minds of Hurricane Sandy survivors is one: them against the world — until the church touches their lives. As the church’s response grows in numbers, each number is a person, treated with care.
In eastern Pennsylvania, it’s a Desert Storm veteran whose hurricane-damaged home went without heat until the church was able to fund deliveries of oil.
Nearby, another woman, 80 years old, received help with clearing downed trees and expressed her surprise that someone would actually reach out.
“Do you know what she said?” asked Deb DePrinzio, disaster response co-ordinator for the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference. “She said, ‘You have restored my faith in humanity.’’’
In Bay Head, New Jersey, it’s one woman who simply sits at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, which has served 10,000 meals since Sandy barreled through the beach town.
“She comes in here and sits here most of the day. She’s frightened to be in her home,” said church member Ken Jacobsen, who still eats dinner every day at the church before going back to work on repairing his damaged home.
Looking around him, he reflects, “There are a lot of people who have met their neighbors here for the first time.”
So many facets of Hurricane Sandy response are still unfolding that a snapshot portrayal is difficult to capture. In countless, priceless ways, the United Methodist Committee on Relief is sending hurricane survivors the message that the church will continue to offer help, even while planning for long-term recovery that will take not months but years.
In eastern North Carolina, disaster response co-ordinator Cliff Harvell still has 350 requests for assistance from Hurricane Irene — last year’s disaster but today’s burden for many people.
“Here, we can see how the church responds to immediate needs and responds over the long-term,” he said. “We’ve got teams rebuilding homes here in the wake of Hurricane Irene, and yet we were still able to send ERTs to New Jersey to help relief efforts there.”
Where Donations Are Going
UMCOR has issued the following grants to directly help Hurricane Sandy survivors. Additional grants will continue to support immediate relief as well as long-term recovery.
$10,000 The Methodist Church of Cuba
$10,000 North Carolina Conference
$10,000 Peninsula-Delaware Conference
$10,000 Eastern Pennsylvania Conference
$60,000 Greater New Jersey Conference
$10,000 New York Disaster Interfaith Services
$60,000 New York Conference
Keep the care going. Please give to Hurricanes 2012, UMCOR Advance #3021787.
*Kim is a journalist and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org.