Early on October 29th, the storm surge of Hurricane Sandy reached the shores of New Jersey and New York, causing massive damage in many communities, destroying or damaging homes, leaving many without power, crippling other essential infrastructure, and leaving many without access to essential services, their schools, or places of employment. Currently, more than 11,000 people in the Rockaway Peninsula of Queens, New York are without power, and as is widely reported by the media, repair and restoration costs are estimated to be in the tens of billions of dollars.
Since Sandy hit ground, Week of Compassion has been responding. In the weeks following Sandy, Week of Compassion provided solidarity grants to those in our congregations affected by Sandy, as well as supported ecumenical Church World Service efforts to provide material resources such as clean-up kits to areas affected by flooding.
As part of our continuing response, I joined Director of Disciples Volunteering Josh Baird, General Minister and President Sharon Watkins and Northeast Regional Pastor Mary Ann Glover on a January 6-9 pastoral visit to areas affected by Sandy. During this visit, we not only met with Disciples pastors and congregational leaders to talk about their experiences and ways they are responding to community needs, but also with some potential partners for supporting a long-term hands-on response for Disciples volunteers from all over North America.
|Blankets from Johns Creek Christian Church in Georgia for a school in Far Rockaway, Queens. With Brandon Gilvin (Week of Compassion), Josh Baird (Disciples Volunteering), Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins (General Minister and President DOC), Principal Grady and local pastor NaRon Tillman. Also not pictured Regional Minister Mary Anne Glover|
Our conversations, which included conversation partners as diverse as Church World Service staff, founders of small start-up volunteer organizations, and volunteers from the emerging hands-on/advocacy Occupy Sandy network, gave us a good look at the context of the post-Sandy needs of the region. As long time supporters of Week of Compassion know, every disaster is different, and each carries its own particularities and complications, but potential gifts, as well.
Long Term Recovery Organizations and grassroots networks are emerging in New York. There are logistical issues-including, most importantly, adequate volunteer housing in a high-cost, densely populated area-that are going to require continued conversation and creative solutions. Likewise, there are potential partners in the Atlantic City area that are emerging out of WoC's vibrant ecumenical partnerships. There will be a way for Disciples to contribute to the recovery of the area. At this point, we hope to be able to provide volunteer opportunities in the New York/New Jersey area by early summer, 2013.
We will continue to keep you updated as details emerge. For now, we ask for your continued prayers and solidarity for this region. We are grateful for the ways you have supported this recovery. Your generosity has made a difference already and continues to do so as we reach out and as we make plans for a long-term response.
Thank you, as always, for the Courageous Compassion you bring to your partnership with this ministry.