A letter from United Methodist Bishop John Schol of New Jersey marks the first anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, which “changed lives and the landscape forever.”
The bishop thanks “all of our volunteers, donors, churches and staff who have provided healing and hope for thousands of people” and writes about the work to come through A Future with Hope ministry.
Here is the letter:
Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
One year ago, Superstorm Sandy rolled into New Jersey and the region and changed lives and the landscape forever. Today tens of thousands of homes are still in need of repair with many people still unable to return to their homes.
In the midst of this despair, we have offered hope, A Future with Hope. When people hurt, United Methodists help. I take this opportunity to thank all of our volunteers, donors, churches and staff who have provided healing and hope for thousands of people. Together, we set a five-year God-sized vision that included:
- Repairing 300-500 homes of low income, elderly and disable people.
- Providing case management for 500 families.
- Recruiting, housing and deploying at least 15,000 volunteers to repair homes.
- Repairing churches and parsonages severely damaged by the storm.
- Raising $21 million.
After one year of ministry, I want to update you on our progress.
We are now able to host more than 300 volunteers a week through 12 hosts sites. These host sites provide beds, food and showers. Already more than 5,900 volunteers from 23 states and three countries have logged more than 58,000 hours of relief and repair ministry. Immediately following the storm we fed, clothed and provided day and night shelter to more than 10,000 people.
We are presently working with 145 families to create recovery plans. In partnership with UMCOR, we coordinated 9 Disaster Case Management training sessions, training 226 case managers at no cost to 16 organizations including Catholic Charities, American Red Cross, and Salvation Army.
We are presently working in 14 communities. We have moved 12 families back into their homes, another 15 homes are under construction and 22 homes are being assessed or are ready for construction repairs. We have also repaired one community center.
Church Property Repairs
We provided more than $900,000 in grants to assist 44 churches with repairs and undertook repairs for two churches.
We have raised in donations and commitments $9.3 million toward our $21 million goal. This includes $3.8 million from UMCOR, $1.5 million from the American Red Cross, $750,000 from the Hurricane Sandy NJ Relief Fund (the fund established by Mary Pat Christie, the Governor’s wife), $600,000 from the Robin Hood Foundation and $500,000 from United Methodist Conferences around the world. Many of the grants were made possible through the A Future With Hope, Inc., the nonprofit corporation started through GNJ that has raise funds and hired staff for this ministry.
Our Mission Fund Campaign, which will raise $12 million ($7 million for Sandy Relief, $2 million for Imagine No Malaria, and $3 million for local mission) has $2.5 million in donations and commitments before the campaigns have begun in most of our congregations. Eighty percent of our clergy have made a commitment to the Mission Fund Campaign and better than one-third of our congregations are in the process of conducting the campaign with their worshippers.
God is doing a miracle in our midst. Our ministry can probably be best summed up by one homeowner who said, “I called 10 different places and then I reached A Future with Hope, and it was The United Methodist Church who said we will help.” Or the man who shared with us as we moved him back into his home:
Mother and I tried every avenue that was supposed to be available to us to help those hurt by Hurricane Sandy, but were continually denied. In April, we were feeling despair because it rained so often. We even had a stretch of ten straight days of rain. We prayed and asked God just please stop the rain from coming in our home. All we ask Lord is for the roof to get fixed and that would be a great blessing. Then we got a call from Jay, from A Future with Hope, who said he’d like to meet us and maybe they could help. At first we thought it was a scam because no one offered us any help before and what he was telling us seemed too good to be true. So we continued to pray on it and the miracle we needed and God answered our prayers as only He can. The Lord sent us His children to help us! We were and are overwhelmed by what God has done for us through our brothers and sisters in Christ. We can’t express our gratitude enough to all of the wonderful groups that have come to our home and transformed the devastation we were living in to a warm, comfortable home again. “Ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13)
Thank you for your prayers, thank you for your service, thank you for your commitment, and thank you for your contributions. Together with God we are bringing a future with hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
You can continue to support us by sending volunteers and donations. We need volunteers in the coming months. For more information you may email Lisa Park at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn about how you may contribute financially, please contact me at BishopJohnSchol@gnjumc.org.
Keep the faith!
John Schol, Bishop
The United Methodist Church
Greater New Jersey Conference