(Photo: Reuters/Adam Hunger)
Christian relief organizations began to provide food and shelter along the U.S. East Coast to people suffering in the devastating aftermath of superstorm Sandy on Tuesday. By nightfall, the region's death toll reached nearly 50 people and millions remained without power or mass transit.
"We all watched this unique 'superstorm' coming from far off, and could see the potentially devastating course," said Jack Munday, international director of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team, yesterday. "Sadly, it seems that the worst fears were realized and millions of people are now hurting as a result of Hurricane Sandy. I'm not sure that there are words that can adequately describe the enormity of this massive disaster. We'll do all we can in the face of this catastrophe to offer emotional and spiritual care and the hope and compassion of Jesus Christ."
The team's chaplains trained in crisis-response deployed Tuesday morning from Charlotte with three mobile office units, and were scheduled to head toward northern New Jersey, southern New Jersey, and Philadelphia. After an initial assessment, additional chaplains will arrive from across the United States later this week, said leaders of the renowned evangelist's ministry.
Christian leaders throughout the U.S. were using social media to give information about ministries and sister churches in the devastated areas that began serving as distribution points for services and food. Alex Early, Lead Pastor of Four Corners Church in Newnan, Ga., and member of the Acts 29 network of church leaders posted on his blog that Apostles Church, "an A29 church right in NYC, have already mobilized their Sandy relief efforts. Additionally, they're routing volunteers to City Hall."
Early also wrote, "It is urgent that Christians respond as Jesus did when he saw people in great pain. He didn't pontificate with cold philosophy, nor did he patronize suffering people with pithy aphorisms like "Let go and let God." It is precisely because he was God that he did not let go. Jesus' heart broke and he wept when his friend Lazarus died (John 11:35). He put his hands to work to feed the starving (Mark 6:30–44). He rejected religious bigotry and restored a woman's dignity and saved her life (John 8:1–11)."
The Salvation Army had already prepared for a long-term disaster response and recovery operation days before the storm hit. On Tuesday, feeding began at shelters in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions and mobile canteen units will deploy to the areas of greatest need as damage is assessed in the coming days. Crews are providing food, hydration, clean-up kits as well as emotional and spiritual care, stated the Christian-based national organization.
In New York City, officials from the Office of Emergency Management have appointed The Salvation Army as the lead agency for the City's Food Access Plan, to coordinate feeding at city shelters. For the next few days, the organization plans to serve food at Seward High School in lower Manhattan where 1,000 people are being fed breakfast, lunch and dinner.
"It's clear now that Hurricane Sandy was and continues to be a major and historic storm impacting millions of people," said Major George Hood, National Community Relations Secretary for The Salvation Army in the United States, yesterday. "Residents of the impacted areas can rest assured that The Salvation Army will be with them for the long-haul - providing practical, physical and spiritual support at the areas of greatest need."
Current Salvation Army activities in other impacted areas include:
In New Jersey:
- The Salvation Army is serving meals, snacks and drinks to hundreds of evacuees at 11 shelters in five counties.
- While serving meals at a shelter in Union Beach, a Salvation Army canteen and a volunteer vehicle were flooded when waters rose unexpectedly. Despite the loss of these vehicles Salvation Army volunteers continued to serve meals to both displaced residents and first responders.
- Local senior citizens found refuge from Hurricane Sandy at The Salvation Army building in Red Bank.
- In Montclair, The Salvation Army is operating a "charging" center for members of the community needing to charge their phones, computers, or other electronic devices.
- A canteen is embedded with Task Force 1, the State's official search and rescue team.
Elsewhere in New York:
- The Salvation Army provided food and shelter assistance at two locations in Albany as Sandy impacted that area last night.
- On Long Island, The Salvation Army is assisting the American Red Cross with redistribution of supplies to eight shelters.
- The Salvation Army is serving approximately 1,000 meals per day in nine shelters throughout the Philadelphia area.
- In Lehigh Valley and West Chester, the Army is providing meals at three shelters.
In Stamford, CT:
- The Salvation Army has served more than 400 meals and planned to serve 650 dinners last night using supplies collected for this year's Thanksgiving meal.
The Salvation Army asks people who want to help those affected by this disaster to visit www.salvationarmyusa.org or call 1-800-SAL-ARMY (1-800-725-2769).
Church World Service has said its initial response is targeting those in immediate need in New Jersey and, in the Caribbean, in Cuba. An expansion of the agency's responses is anticipated, as CWS assesses immediate and projected long-term recovery needs, in tandem with partners.
Prior to the epic storm's landfall on the northeast U.S. coast Monday evening, CWS shipped 3,300 blankets, 9,000 hygiene kits, 1,125 baby care kits and 1,500 school kits to Cuba in response to Sandy's destruction there.
CWS continues to work with its longtime partner the Cuban Council of Churches in monitoring ongoing needs in Cuba. In Haiti, where CWS has worked since 1954, the agency is now also assessing needs for response to the most vulnerable affected by Sandy's destruction there.
Contributions to support CWS emergency response efforts may be sent to Church World Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515. To support CWS' response within the U.S.: REF: HURRICANE SANDY APPEAL, U.S., # 627-W. To support CWS' response in the Caribbean: REF: HURRICANE SANDY CARIBBEAN APPEAL #6766.
Church World Service is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of churches and agencies engaged in development, humanitarian assistance and advocacy.