United Methodists in New Jersey and New York are mobilizing to help residents in those areas affected by Hurricane Sandy.
On Staten Island, Bethel United Methodist Church is serving as a staging area for relief efforts. Ten United Methodist congregations on Staten Island and their buildings all weathered the storm.
“That’s a good thing,” said Joseph Ewoodzie, disaster relief coordinator for the New York Conference. “It takes focus off the church and into the community.”
At Bethel UMC, he added, “the church has opened up its facilities, so we have a big space where volunteers can come in and get a quick orientation.” Initial efforts will focus on mucking out, cleaning and sanitizing. Two nearby congregations, St. Paul and Woodrow United Methodist churches, will work with Bethel to receive and deploy volunteers and provide other relief services.
Volunteers were also working on cleanup in Massapequa, a Long Island community hard-hit by the hurricane, with Community United Methodist Church there serving as a center for recovery work.
In New Jersey, Bishop John Schol gathered close to 50 leaders from around the Greater New Jersey Conference to begin making plans to help communities affected by the storm. Several leaders from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) were on hand.
“We will walk with you through this process,” Tom Hazelwood, UMCOR’s assistant general secretary for disaster response in the U.S., assured the group. He warned the group that residents in the area will likely undergo a grieving process, experiencing pain and possibly anger towards the situation, but at some point people will “withdraw their emotional energy from the past and put it into the future,” Mr. Hazelwood said.
Relief efforts will focus on the elderly and poor, according to Bishop Schol, and will initially address immediate needs such as food, clothing and shelter. Later efforts will focus on fixing homes, rebuilding communities, and attending to the emotional and spiritual health of the people in communities affected. Recovery is expected to take years.
As needs are assessed, volunteer opportunities will be posted at the conference’s website, www.gnjumc.org. Online donations may also be made there for the GNJ Sandy Relief Fund, 100 percent of which will help relief work in New Jersey.