Churches and Volunteers in New York City Help Neighbors to Survive the Storms
by AT News Team
Last Sabbath (November 3) the New York City metro area was emerging from Hurricane Sandy; this Sabbath it will be blasted with snow and freezing winds. Not only are Adventists gathering for worship despite the weather, they are also caring for suffering neighbors in the communities where congregations are located.
Pastor Todd Stout, senior pastor at Church of the Advent Hope, the Seventh-day Adventist congregation in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, sent his members an Email on Friday asking them to dress in work clothes. “We have work to do to help the hurricane victims.” His members spent the Sabbath preparing and distributing hundreds of meals in the Long Beach and Canarsie neighborhoods of Brooklyn and on Manhattan in the Lower East Side. The church is continuing to work with nearby Christ Church NYC from another denomination to collect coats and toiletries for distribution to storm survivors in shelters and on the streets.
Pastor Tony Romeo, leader of the Manhattan Seventh-day Adventist Church and director REACH-NYC, reports that his congregation in the West Village area of lower Manhattan served breakfast on the sidewalk in front of the church and then had a “relaxed” Bible study as well as a time of testimony during which people shared their storm stories and praised God to still be alive. The group went out in the afternoon to nearby Washington Square Park and other neighborhood locations to share soup, hot chocolate and sandwiches. His wife had prepared “freshly made hot Pasta Fagioli Soup, an Italian classic.” Church members, as well as visitors from Loma Linda (California) and Texas, pitched in to make the sandwiches and help distribute the food to grateful neighbors.
Donations to support the activities in New York City can be sent to REACH-NYC, P.O. Box 651, North Salem, NY 10560. If “Hurricane Sandy” is written in the memo section of a check, it will be used only for relief efforts, Pastor Romeo told Adventist Today.
Volunteers from many Adventist groups—units affiliated with Adventist Community Services (ACS) and independent ministries—have been streaming into the hard-hit areas of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut all week. A group of 60 volunteers from Heritage Academy in Monterey, Tennessee, worked at the emergency distribution center in Hoboken, New Jersey, immediately across the river from lower Manhattan. A team of 10 faculty and students from Union College are working in the Toms River area north of Atlantic City, one of the most devastated regions. Both are part of ACTS World Relief, a volunteer agency run by Adventists.
Both of these volunteer teams are highly trained and travel with a complete array of rescue and survival equipment, including generators, chain saws, etc. The Union College team is from the institution’s academic program in international rescue and relief. The Heritage Academy students have all completed the Federal government’s CERT training as emergency responders.
“Normally we tell volunteers they are not needed,” the city official in charge of the Hoboken center told ACTS World Relief director David Canther, “but because of your training, please work with the National Guard in distributing emergency supplies.” National television news has run pictures of this National Guard operation in Hoboken much of the last week. This city official is a CERT trainer and immediately recognized the expertise that the Adventist student volunteers brought to the scene.
ACS has trained tens of thousands of volunteers across the country in the last decade through its Disaster Response program, although it remains largely unknown to most church members. “The members who invest themselves in ACS are unsung heroes,” one church administrator told Adventist Today. “They are like the adults who staff Pathfinder Clubs in that this is a specialized ministry that is usually ignored, but does great work, makes a large impact and is an amazing expression of the faith and sacrifice of large numbers of Adventists.”
Hurricane Sandy did massive damage on a number of Caribbean islands before it roared up the east coast of the United States. This is a story largely lost to the American news media, but it has the attention of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA). The organization is working to help 1,200 families in the Dominican Republic who lost their homes in a mud slide and has been distributing blankets, hot meals and personal care kits in Jamaica.
ADRA has set up a Hurricane Sandy emergency fund and donations can be sent directly to ADRA International, 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, MD 20904, or placed in an offering envelope at any Adventist church and marked “Hurricane Sandy Relief.”
Photos courtesy of: Advent Hope, Tony Romeo, and Conna Bond