[Episcopal Relief & Development] Episcopal Relief & Development is working alongside diocesan and parish leaders to distribute relief supplies, food and water aid to people directly impacted by superstorm Sandy. The storm system hit the Caribbean on Oct. 25 before turning north along the United States’ East Coast and making landfall in central New Jersey on Oct. 29, causing severe damage. At least 157 people were killed by the storm, including 88 in the United States.
In Haiti, those still living in temporary shelters and tent camps established after the 2010 earthquake were among the hardest hit by the storm. The destruction of crops in the agricultural southern part of the country has led to concerns about high prices and potential shortages of fresh food. Episcopal Relief & Development, in collaboration with the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti, is sourcing food and water for distribution in critically impacted areas, and will help communities replace roofing and other materials lost to this latest crisis.
In the Episcopal Diocese of New York, Episcopal Relief & Development is supporting local diocesan and parish leaders in addressing difficulties caused by the fifth consecutive day of widespread power outages and lack of transportation. A major concern for the churches within the city of New York are people who live on upper floors in high rise apartment buildings and are unable to acquire or transport water and food to their homes. Relief efforts are underway to connect those communities in highly vulnerable parts of the New York City with church communities and volunteers who are able to provide and deliver supplies.
In areas outside New York City, people are also experiencing isolation due to lack of power and fuel. The Episcopal Diocese of New York is encouraging church communities to bring supplies for distribution through local resource centers in their area. The Rt. Rev. Andrew Dietsche, bishop co-adjutor of New York, has expressed particular concern for churches and communities on Staten Island, where the storm devastated neighborhoods and killed at least 14 people. “The pastoral needs on Staten Island are extraordinary, but the church buildings are okay,” he said. Of the 10 Episcopal churches on Staten Island, only one was damaged, and relief efforts are underway.
Episcopal Relief & Development is also coordinating relief efforts in conjunction with the Episcopal dioceses of Long Island, Newark, New Jersey and Connecticut. Churches are mobilizing to distribute relief supplies, extend the reach of their food pantries, provide shelter to people evacuated from low lying areas, and offer pastoral care.
“The strength of the church is that we are able to reach niches where broader relief efforts might not know there is need,” said Rob Radtke, president of Episcopal Relief & Development. “What’s more, the church has a long-term presence in communities that have been impacted. They’re doing what they can now by mobilizing local resources or acting as distribution centers for relief organizations, but they’re going to be there all through the rebuilding and recovery process. For some communities, this is going to take years – but the church will be there every step of the way.”