By Linda Bloom*
The continuing influx of volunteer teams is a critical component of United Methodist Sandy recovery efforts.
Lisa Park, volunteer coordinator for Greater New Jersey’s A Future with Hope, said she already is connecting with teams that previously visited and with volunteer in mission coordinators of the denomination’s five jurisdictions and anyone else showing an interest in helping. “We’re putting it out in all different avenues getting ready for the spring and summer,” she noted. “On our June calendar, we have at least one team a week scheduled already.”
The Rev. Tom Vencuss, Sandy disaster coordinator for the New York Annual Conference, also is looking at offering the option of working for a day, week or weekend or assisting with “bite-sized pieces” of house projects.
“One of the challenges is going to be keeping the Sandy need in front of people,” he said. “This recovery is going to be multiple years.”
Coordinating the work with other partners at the unmet needs roundtable also is essential. “In the relief phases, things are pretty straightforward,” Vencuss explained. “The recovery is much more of a challenge. You’ve got local regulations, you’ve got permits that have to be pulled.
“The sequencing of efforts, the coordination of that is critical.”
Case managers also are important in building relationships with Sandy survivors, said New Jersey Area Bishop John Schol.
“We can only help those in need if we understand the complexity of their issues and have the resources available to help them navigate through the complicated task of recovery,” he added.
This fall, the Greater New Jersey Conference has set far-reaching funding targets with A Future with Hope Mission Fund campaign. The goal is to raise $12 million — $7 million for Sandy recovery, $2 million for Imagine No Malaria and $3 million for local church mission projects —over the next three years. “Seventy percent of our clergy have already made a commitment to our campaign personally,” the bishop noted.
Come to Brooklyn!
A former home for unwed mothers, established when German Methodists settled in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, now provides simple accommodations for Sandy volunteer teams.
Up to 50 volunteers have access to rooms on the top two floors, each of which has two full baths and a half bath, as well as kitchen facilities and a roof deck barbecue overlooking the leafy backyard. Street parking is available at the building, which houses a day center for seniors, and a grocery is nearby.
Additional volunteer housing is being considered, said the Rev. Wesley Daniels and Gillian Prince, organizers of the Brooklyn work for the New York Annual Conference.
“The biggest challenge is how quickly this storm dropped off the radar,” said Caleb Keane, a construction manager with Resurrection Brooklyn, who has appreciated the contributions of United Methodist teams. “We were hoping to have a bigger response.”