By Sarah Schafer
While Rick Pullen worked as a rescue diver during Superstorm Sandy Oct. 29, an eight-foot wave crashed through the first floor of his Bayville, N.J., home. A boat docked 15 miles from the bay-front home landed on his dock.
“There’s debris all over from who knows where,” said the Rev. Glenn Merritt, director of LCMS Disaster Response, as he met Nov. 2 with Pullen, chief of the Berkeley Township Underwater Search and Rescue, and his wife, Sue — members of Village Lutheran Church, Lanoka Harbor, N.J.
Four days after the storm, reports of needs continue coming. In addition to the Pullens’ home, five other Good Shepherd families’ homes were destroyed by Sandy.
Merritt, along with the Rev. Bart Day, director of the LCMS Office of National Mission; the Rev. Carlos Hernandez, director of LCMS Church and Community Development; and Al Dowbnia, director of Digital Media with LCMS Communications, are meeting with LCMS New Jersey and Atlantic District leaders to help with assessment and developing response plans.
To hear a KFUO-AM Radio interview with Merritt, click here.
With Atlantic District President Rev. Dr. David Benke, the LCMS team plans to visit each church on Staten Island Nov. 3 and meet with LCMS members to assess the main needs for the members and their community.
To date, Merritt reports two LCMS teachers’ Staten Island homes were damaged and early assessments indicate other LCMS members had substantial damage to their homes.
“We don’t know their status, but because of the level of damage on Staten Island, we can assume the damages are severe,” said Merritt.
Like many residents in the area, the LCMS team has been challenged in finding gasoline and hotel rooms. On Nov. 2, the team left their rental car parked and rented another vehicle, simply to have a full gas tank.
“What is really important is for us, as the body of Christ in those places, to be there first for the members of those churches and then especially for the people around that community, around that altar, in the community,” said LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison in a video message recorded Nov. 1. (To watch the video, click here.)
The LCMS Ohio District reports three counties in northeast Ohio that were impacted by the superstorm as it traveled westward across the country. District Disaster Response Coordinator Mary Woodward said teams will assist homeowners with debris removal and then determine how the district can help with home repairs.
The first of several trained disaster-response teams from the Ohio District also will travel to Long Island next week to assist with debris removal and other needs.
Needs: volunteers, goods
Volunteers are now being accepted in New York and West Virginia.
Volunteer reception centers are opening with urgent needs in New York City and Long Island. Email email@example.com to register groups for debris removal and to distribute food, water and blankets.
Homes in Nicholas County, W. Va, are collapsing under the weight of up to 4 feet of snow. Those volunteering to shovel snow from rooftops — an urgent need — may register via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Woodward is organizing a project named “Stuff the Truck” — to fill a 48-foot semitrailer with material goods that will be distributed through Church World Service in New York City — until LCMS staging centers can be established.
Immediate needs are hygiene kits, water and gift cards for large, national retail stores. Other items needed throughout the coming weeks include: blankets, non-perishable food, school supplies, cleaning supplies and “flood buckets.”
Donations may be sent to Disaster Warehouse/Mary Woodward, 810 Main St., Caldwell, OH, 43724.
“It is our goal to fill it several times from our congregations and businesses, sending it east each time it is filled!” wrote Woodward in a Nov. 2 email.
For more information, contact Woodward at email@example.com or call 740-509-1132.
“The needs are enormous: for houses, for transitional housing, for food, and the needs will continue for a long time,” said Harrison in his video address.
The LCMS has so far awarded three emergency grants in response to the superstorm: $15,000 to the LCMS Atlantic District; $10,000 to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Haiti, an LCMS partner church body; and $10,500 to the Cuban Mission Society.
To help those affected by the storm:
- make an online gift at https://www.lcms.org/givenow/disaster.
- mail checks payable to “The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod” (with a memo line or note designating “LCMS Disaster Relief”) to The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, P.O. Box 66861, St. Louis, MO 63166-6861.
- call toll-free 888-930-4438. Phones will be open Saturday, Nov. 3, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (CST) to take disaster-relief calls. Normal business hours are 8:10 a.m. to 4:10 p.m. (CST) Monday through Friday.
In addition to Reporter Online, continuing updates about the Synod’s response to Hurricane Sandy will be posted on the LCMS website at www.lcms.org, Twitter (www.twitter.com/thelcms), the LCMS Facebook page (www.facebook.com/thelcms) and the Mercy Forever blog (http://mercyforever.lcms.org).
Sarah Schafer is a freelance writer based in Fairfax, Va., and a member of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Springfield, Va.
Posted Nov. 2, 2012 / Updated Nov. 7, 2012