Children’s Disaster Services Works in New Jersey, New York; Brethren Service Center Ships Materials for CWS

Photo by Connie Rutt, Children’s Disaster Services
We’re rebuilding New Jersey! Children play out their response to Hurricane Sandy’s destruction at a Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) center in a shelter in New Jersey.

Brethren Disaster Ministries and ecumenical partner Church World Service (CWS) have issued updates on their responses to the unfolding disaster and continuing human needs in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Church members who are considering donating to the response are encouraged to give through the Emergency Disaster Fund ( ) in support of the Brethren response including the work of Children’s Disaster Services ( ).

Twenty childcare volunteers are onsite

“The Children’s Disaster Services response is progressing, though slowly, in this midst of this huge and devastating disaster,” reports Roy Winter, associate executive director of Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries.

Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) is currently working in two shelters, one in New Jersey and one in New York. Twenty CDS volunteers are on site in New Jersey and New York, or will be in the next 24 hours. CDS’ trained and certified volunteers set up childcare facilities in shelters and other sites in cooperation with FEMA and the Red Cross, providing care for children and families.

“Children are so often forgotten” in the midst of disaster, Winter says, commenting that Children’s Disaster Services is really the church’s early response team. “We go in as so often Brethren do, to speak for the forgotten.”

Children in the two centers in New York and New Jersey are playing and talking about rebuilding, he reports. CDS volunteers arrive at a disaster location with a “Kit of Comfort” containing toys that promote imaginative play. Volunteers give children individualized attention and encourage them to express themselves, thereby starting the healing process. For parents, CDS provides respite, education, and someone to talk to about their child’s emotional needs after a disaster. CDS also works with community agencies to help them understand and meet the special needs of children during or after a disaster.

While 20 volunteers is not enough to begin to address the need following Sandy, Winter says, “this does get our foot in the door. All of these volunteers were close enough to drive into the response. We have not been able to fly anyone in just yet, but do expect to at some point.”

CDS expects the Red Cross to request an increase in numbers of volunteers next week. Nearly 60 volunteers have shared that they are available to help.

This weekend, Winter will join CDS associate director Judy Bezon in the most affected areas of New Jersey and New York, to help assess where Brethren aid is most needed. CDS leaders are visiting and evaluating which shelters to target with services.

“Logistics are just really, really impossible,” Winter comments. The assessment is complicated by the large population in the most heavily affected places, lack of fuel including for emergency response vehicles, continuing lack of power, and no housing for volunteers.

“It gets further complicated because the shelters were opened by the city of New York or New Jersey officials, but are in the process of transitioning to Red Cross management,” he adds. “Hopefully you get a glimpse of the challenging working condition during this early phase of the response.” The transportation issues seem most daunting, as Winter reports that emergency response vehicles even have to go out of state to Pennsylvania to refuel, and then return to the New Jersey/New York area, where many roads still are blocked by masses of sand blown in by the storm.

“Everything is fluid and changing,” Winter says, asking for patience as disaster staff do their work in the midst of a rapidly moving situation.

He and Bezon also ask for prayers for all the families affected by the storm.

CWS increases its relief shipments

Relief materials and kits are shipped from the warehouses at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., on behalf of Church World Service and other ecumenical partners. The Church of the Brethren Material Resources staff does the work of collecting, processing, and warehousing the relief materials.

Photo by FEMA/Liz Roll
A beach house rolled onto its side by Hurricane Sandy, one of the many buildings destroyed along the coastline of New Jersey and New York states. Other effects of the massive storm are still being assessed in areas inland, including West Virginia and Ohio.

In an Updated Emergency Appeal issued yesterday, Nov. 1, CWS reported that it is working with state, regional, and local Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOADS) and FEMA member denominations to determine where church help is needed. CWS also is providing material resources including blankets, hygiene kits, school kits, baby kits, and clean-up buckets to local agencies in four states: New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

Current shipments of relief goods amount to $481,577, with more shipments in process. Details of shipments, with dollar value, follow:

— To the Salvation Army in Hempstead, N.Y.: 990 blankets, 1,005 Baby Kits, 1,020 Hygiene Kits, with a total value of $55,187

— To the Community Food Bank of New Jersey in Hillside, N.J.: 2,010 blankets, 105 Baby Kits, 3,000 School Kits, 3,000 Hygiene Kits, 300 Emergency Clean-Up Buckets, valued at $107,754

— To the US Army Reserve in Beaver, W. Va.: 1,020 blankets, 300 Baby Kits, 1,020 School Kits, 1020 Hygiene Kits, 144 Emergency Clean-Up Buckets, valued at $51,231

— To the Nassau County Office of Emergency Management in Bethpage, N.Y.: 774 Emergency Clean-Up Buckets with a value of $43,344

— To the Adventist Community Services in the Bronx, N.Y.: 2,010 blankets, 2,010 Baby Kits, 2,010 School Kits, 2,040 Hygiene Kits, 500 Emergency Clean-Up Buckets, totaling $168,699

— To the Lehigh County Emergency Management in Allentown, Pa.: 1,020 blankets, 1,005 Baby Kits, 1,020 Hygiene Kits, totaling $55,362

“The initial response phase has not yet ended,” CWS warns. “As the affected areas become safe to enter, teams from CWS-member communions will assess the damage, help home owners repair damaged houses, and develop plans for future long-term recovery activities to include major home repairs and rebuilds. CWS also will assist communities in developing Long Term Recovery plans, providing technical and financial support, and providing onsite Long Term Recovery training.”

The update anticipated that the extent of the damage is not yet known in places like New Jersey, where the situation was characterized as “grim” by CWS, and the city of Hoboken in particular where some 20,000 people were trapped in apartments without power and streets were flooded.

The release also alerted member churches to other places where Sandy caused extensive damage that have not received much attention in the wider media, including North Carolina, where the storm flood 400 homes; Ohio, where there is flooding along the Cuyahoga, Chagrin, and Grand Rivers near Cleveland; and West Virginia, where homes have been destroyed by roofs collapsing under more than 24 inches of snow.

“Communities in West Virginia are now bracing for the flooding that will result when the snow melts,” CWS said.

CWS is encouraging donations to restock of all of its kit types. Lists of contents and instructions are at . View a video about the CWS response to Sandy at .

Give to the Church of the Brethren response effort at .

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