Congregations continue Sandy relief efforts, prepare for nor’easter

[Episcopal Relief & Development] Episcopal Relief & Development is coordinating with dioceses impacted by Superstorm Sandy to support relief activities that respond to emerging community needs. Congregations in New York and New Jersey have also been preparing for the Nor’easter that is currently bringing cold temperatures, wind and snow to an already battered region. Food and heat are major concerns in the Northeast, with churches working to increase the service capacity of their food pantries, distribute blankets and acquire generators and fuel in order to serve as warming centers.

Superstorm Sandy hit the Caribbean on October 25 before turning north and making landfall in central New Jersey on October 29. With assistance from Episcopal Relief & Development, the Episcopal dioceses of New York, Long Island, New Jersey, Newark and Connecticut have been supporting parish-based relief activities.

In the Episcopal dioceses of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Episcopal Relief & Development is providing technical assistance as relief efforts expand beyond emergency aid to focus on initial rebuilding. The organization is currently supporting local partners in providing food assistance and building materials to repair wind-damaged homes.

Local partners continue to send updates about current conditions and response plans. The Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey has reported devastation along the coastline and in areas of low elevation due to flooding and severe winds. Downed trees have caused power outages that are as yet unresolved, compounding concerns about the approaching Nor’easter. Out of the diocese’s 150-plus church locations, approximately 20 have sustained significant or irreparable damage. Over a dozen churches are mobilizing their feeding ministries, thrift shops and volunteers to respond to area needs, and at least one church is making space available for a support center that will assist people in applying for government disaster assistance.

The Episcopal Diocese of New York is currently responding to the storm’s widespread destruction in Staten Island, lower Manhattan and the counties north of New York City. Power outages and fuel shortages are hampering transportation, but local parishes are working to meet food, clothing and other needs for approximately 8,000 people throughout the diocese.

In addition to providing food and serving as distribution and response coordination centers, churches in impacted areas are concentrating on identifying and meeting needs that broader response efforts may not address. For example, the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island is supporting temporary housing for staff at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway, as they continue their ministry of healing while recovering from the storm.

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