More volunteers are needed to repair and rebuild homes in communities affected by Hurricane Sandy.
By Susan Kim*
January 29, 2013—It's getting easy for people—even the ones who exhibited utmost concern just after the storm struck—to forget about Hurricane Sandy. This bothers Kelly Robertson, public relations and logistics coordinator for the New York Annual Conference.
“It's not over,” she said. “This isn't going to be over for years. We need to focus on this. There are still people without electricity. There are still people without a home. There are still people in great, dire need.”
What can one church do? Financial contributions and volunteer teams are the two best ways to help, she said.
United Methodists have been generous. Since Sandy roared up from the Caribbean in late October, they have given more than $6.7 million to support UMCOR’s long-term recovery work in hard-hit New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Maryland, as well as in the Caribbean.
This financial support allows UMCOR to focus particularly on the most vulnerable populations impacted by the storm, including low-income families, minority groups, the elderly and home-bound, and undocumented individuals.
Because recovery is expected to take many months, UMCOR will continue to rely on the generous contributions of United Methodists and other people of goodwill, while also reaching out to funding organizations. In December, UMCOR received a grant of $100,000 for Sandy recovery on Long Island.
Sending a single volunteer team might feel like an effort that won't make much difference, said Robertson, but collectively it makes a huge impact.
“One woman gave me one of the most awesome descriptions I've heard when someone asked what one group can actually do. She said each group is like a drop of water and, together, they make a perfect glass of water,” she said.
Ironically, the more Sandy fades from the national headlines, the more help people will need as they make their transition from relief to long-term recovery.
By springtime, large numbers of skilled volunteers will be needed to direct volunteer crews who may not be as skilled, said Barbara Burnside, volunteer coordinator for the New York Annual Conference Mission/Disaster Response Office.
Long Beach, the Rockaways, Island Park, and Freeport are the hardest-hit communities in New York, she said.
“We still have many people who need help with mucking out, debris, and drywall removal,” she said. “Spiritual care needs are ongoing, as you can imagine. For volunteers, having a caring attitude and listening is so important.”
Communities in New Jersey are just beginning to make the shift from relief to long-term recovery, said Wayne Jones, disaster-response coordinator for the New Jersey Annual Conference.
“We are still doing relief work but we are also gearing up for long-term recovery,” he said. “I know a few of our teams have worked on hanging drywall and have helped with other types of rebuild.”
Responders also wanted to publicly thank the volunteers who have already been working in affected communities, those that plan to volunteer, and those who will repeatedly return.
Statistics, still being compiled and ever-changing within each community, reflect the compassion and generosity of the connectional United Methodist Church.
In the New York community of Massapequa alone, nearly 900 volunteers have contributed some 5,000 hours, numbers that increase every day. The Greater New Jersey Annual Conference has tallied 6,000 volunteer hours, and that number grows daily as well.
UMCOR will continue to assist communities in need. Your gift to Hurricanes 2012, UMCOR Advance #3021787, will help.
*Susan Kim is a journalist and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org.