By Jane Yount
A Hurricane Sandy recovery grant that Brethren Disaster Ministries was awarded last year from the American Red Cross (ARC) provided the financial backing needed to expand Brethren Disaster Ministries’ efforts in New Jersey from one project in Toms River to a second project based in Spotswood.
As a recipient of this grant, the Brethren Disaster Ministries goal was to repair or rebuild 75 homes by the end of 2014. We are pleased to announce that by the end of the third quarter of 2014, 74 homes have been completed at both sites, with 9 more in progress in the Spotswood area. (The current work in Toms River is exempt from the grant.
Brethren Disaster Ministries’ main concern is to engage our volunteers in helping disaster survivors who are most in need. All of our cases are now being received from the Monmouth County Long Term Recovery Group (MCLTRG), which is providing a steady flow of appropriate work for our volunteers to do on behalf of Sandy survivors.
Some of the people we are helping include single mothers with one or two children and no insurance, an older couple who ran out of money and are still traumatized by the flood, a very poor couple with a child, and numerous others like these. Brethren Disaster Ministries therefore has decided to continue recovery work in Spotswood into the spring of 2015 and possibly longer.
Trinity United Methodist hosts volunteers
At the beginning of this year, Trinity United Methodist Church opened its doors as a housing facility for Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteers responding to Hurricane Sandy in Spotswood, N.J.
“The fact that BDM ended up in this particular church is truly a match made in heaven,” said Ruth Warfield, volunteer household manager who served from July through September. Her predecessor, Doretta Dorsch, had started joint dinners for church members and disaster volunteers on Wednesday nights, a weekly tradition that has continued and has borne much spiritual fruit.
Warfield shared story after story about how this invitation to dinner has had a profound impact on people’s lives and pulled the church together into a much stronger community. Different members of the congregation have gotten up during Sunday services and told the congregation that Brethren Disaster Ministries’ presence at the church and having these suppers together has changed their lives.
One person, who had been strongly opposed to sharing the church facilities with outsiders, said the inspiring example of the Brethren volunteers made him change his mind. One woman said her husband had pretty much stopped talking due to the incredible stress her family is undergoing. She told the congregation that he’d been talking again during the last three Wednesday night suppers, and for the first time in a year seems to enjoy life again. Another woman has a husband with dementia, and another has Alzheimer’s, but you wouldn’t know it on Wednesdays.
Something holy is happening on those nights.
According to Ruth Warfield, the ladies of the church gradually began to take ownership of the dinners and “have begun to feel like family.” She anticipated as many as 50 people at the next dinner. “Watching this community become strong and vibrant--there just aren’t words to describe it,” she said.
-- Jane Yount serves as coordinator of the Brethren Disaster Ministries office at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md.