On October 29, Hurricane Sandy barreled up the Caribbean, gaining momentum as a “super storm” that hammered heavily populated shoreline communities of New Jersey and New York. Many of you have asked how you or your school community can help those in need.
NAES has had only two reports of sustained disruption or damage to Episcopal schools in the northeast United States: Trinity Episcopal Preschool in Southport, Connecticut was flooded and has re-opened in temporary facilities. The electrical service in the building housing Trinity Preschool in lower Manhattan was damaged by flood waters and also has re-opened; a teacher lost her home on Long Island to the storm.
Scores of home and businesses were damaged or destroyed along the shorelines of New Jersey, Long Island, and New York City’s beach communities in Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Queens. Damage to churches was most severe in the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey, which includes all of the Jersey Shore. The Episcopal Diocese of Haiti suffered significant damage as well.
As soon as the storm passed, scores of local, grass-roots relief efforts were quickly organized and FEMA, city agencies, and large non-profits were mobilized across New York and New Jersey. Thousands of people have responded to calls for supplies, funds, and volunteers. Episcopal parishes were and remain part of these efforts. Episcopal schools also mobilized to help.
In most communities, the recovery phase is underway. People are cleaning out the storm’s debris and beginning to repair damaged homes and businesses, aided by volunteers and professionals. This long-term effort will be affected by the availability of funds and by government decisions as to what can, should, or will be rebuilt in these shoreline communities.
Some neighborhoods in New York City continue to suffer from limited heat and access to groceries and household supplies. They are being served by volunteers who prepare meals and distribute supplies.
Learn more about the storm’s effects:
Status reports from the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey.
After Sandy, a photo montage and relief report from the Diocese of New Jersey.
A video of St. Luke & St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Brooklyn which has been serving as an Occupy Sandy distribution center.
How Can We Help?
There are three ways to help: direct service, financial support, and standing in solidarity with those affected. Each is vital to relief, recovery, and rebuilding.
Some schools have asked NAES about bringing groups of students to affected areas help with relief or recovery efforts, or sending materials and supplies.
Some of the greatest needs require adult, trained professionals such as electricians, builders, and medical and mental health professionals. Licensing, training and/or age requirements may apply.
The decision to organize a service trip must be weighed very carefully to insure that any efforts are age-appropriate, meet demonstrated needs, and do not additionally burden already-stressed communities, organizations, and resources. However, the preparation and delivery of meals, collection and distribution of supplies, and clean-up projects are being organized on an ongoing basis and opportunities for direct service will undoubtedly grow in the months ahead.
Students, parents, and teachers often want to help a specific community or group of people, but managing these inquiries and unsolicited donations can take time and energy time away from families and neighbors in distress. Schools that have a specific relationship with a specific church or affected community may well be able to do so responsibly.
The following websites have more information:
Occupy Sandy maintains an active website with timely information about how to donate supplies and/or provide volunteer service. Two Episcopal churches in the diocese of Long Island are serving as collection and distribution centers.
Episcopal Diocese of Long Island. The diocese has its own Hurricane Sandy relief fund as well as volunteer activities.
NYC Service lists ways to help in New York City.
For most of us, providing direct financial support to a reputable local or national relief initiative is the most responsible way to help. Relief agencies and community-based organizations are able to deliver aid where it is needed most. Consider giving to one of the following funds:
Episcopal Relief and Development has a dedicated Hurricane Sandy Response Fund for the US and Haiti.
The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City has a dedicated relief fund for Hurricane Sandy.
The Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund has been established by Governor Chris Christie.
Stand in Solidarity with Those Affected
Prayer helps as does publicizing your efforts as a way to spur others to action, remembering those affected in your school’s communications and prayers, and keeping track of new needs and ways to help. Recovery is a process of months and years. All affected will fear that their needs and suffering will be forgotten once the news cameras go away. Remaining informed and engaged long after the storm has passed is as important as immediate relief.
Hurricane Sandy is neither the first nor the last time that we will be called to join together in mutual aid, comfort, and support. In the past year, Episcopal schools and churches, and their surrounding communities, have been affected by fire, tornado, mudslide, earthquake, and hurricane, as have our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean and Asia. Through prayer, education, and action we can come together, make a difference for our neighbors, and prepare the next generation to care for one another and the world they will inherit.
How has your school helped after Sandy? We’d love to know!
Questions? Contact Ann Mellow, Associate Director.