Helping After Sandy

Those of us here in the New York office are among the lucky ones. Although inconvenienced, we have come through Sandy with our homes, lives, and loved ones intact. Many of you have reached out to ask how you or your school community can help those in need. Suggested resources are listed at the end of this article.

The Impact

The first reports from affected dioceses indicate that Episcopal schools and churches in the United States came through Sandy relatively unscathed. Some have reported minor damage and others continue to await the return of power.

More significant, however, are the effects on the lives and homes of school families, parishioners, their neighbors and communities. These will persist in the hardest hit areas of New Jersey, Long Island, Connecticut and other states where flood waters damaged or destroyed homes and businesses. The damage to parts of Haiti has been significant as well, exacerbating ongoing rebuilding efforts. 

The words of one rector on Long Island undoubtedly ring true for many of these communities:

We are in the process of recovering from the hurricane—our house is very close to the bay—fortunately we did not incur any damages. We were evacuated and returned on Wednesday. The parish and school are fine—also, as you know, in a very low lying area. Our local scout troop had sandbagged all of the doors and I am very pleased that the church didn’t have massive water damage as in prior storms.
Sadly, many of my parish members had up to 5′ of water in their basements and/or first floors. I’ve spent last two days assisting with carpet removal. Now off to more visitations and assisting where I can. Please continue to hold these parishes and schools in your prayers.

How Can We Help?

I asked an Episcopal school head in Hoboken, New Jersey, a community flooded and without power after Sandy, about how people could help best.

“Notes and money,” she said. “People need to be thanked and not forgotten.” Her school is supporting the local community organizations that were so critical during and after the storm. “We need to stand by the community organizations that do this work all the time, such as the local soup kitchens and homeless shelters. They were there for us during Sandy, ready and able to help, and they’ll be there after this has passed. They need our thanks and support all the time, not just during a crisis.”
As a school head in Lower Manhattan during and after the events of September 11, 2001, I experienced first-hand the effects of a disaster and some of the ways to help and be helped. Here some suggestions:

If you are near areas affected by the storm, consider direct service to a surrounding neighborhood or community.

However, it is critical that your service meets needs identified by those affected (as opposed to donors’ needs) and does not create additional burdens or interfere with other relief efforts. Consider working with other neighborhood organizations, community agencies, and local non-profits that have direct access to civic leaders and distribution networks. 

If your school is far from the impact of the storm or your students are too young to provide direct service
, donate to a reputable relief fund or organization.

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. Relief agencies and community-based organizations need the flexibility—and the funds—to deliver aid where it is needed most. The very best way to help is to provide direct financial support to a reputable local or national relief initiative.

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. Some of Sandy’s victims have already expressed feelings of abandonment, and 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.

Suggested Resources and Websites

Education, worship, and pastoral care

Blog posts about rescue,relief, and recovery from Episcopal Relief and Development.

On the Destruction of a Home, a worship service, from the Presbyterian Church USA

Ministering to Children After Disaster from Episcopal Relief and Development

Prayers and litanies from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.

Special thanks to Sharon Ely Pearson, Christian Formation Specialist, Church Publishing, Inc. and author of the monthly newsletter, In-Formation. Subscribe here.

How to Give or Volunteer

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.

NYC Service lists ways to volunteer in NYC and how to donate goods and services.

The Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund has been established by Governor Chris Christie.

Each the following dioceses has information about needs and conditions in their areas: 

Episcopal Diocese of Long Island
Serves Brooklyn, Queens, and all of Long Island.

The Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut

Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey
Serves the entire Jersey shore, including Atlantic City.

Episcopal Diocese of Newark
Serves the northern portion of New Jersey, including Hoboken, Jersey City, and Newark.

Episcopal Diocese of New York
Serves Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island; and Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Dutchess, Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties to the north.