Sandy, One Year Later: Rebuilding Homes and Lives

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A recent New York Times article profiled several Hurricane Sandy survivors under the headline, “A Storm Still Felt.” On Staten Island, where Sandy’s effects linger, Episcopal Charities is proud to support the Hurricane Sandy recovery work of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. Our response began immediately following the storm in November 2012, distributing emergency funds to help food pantries and soup kitchens restock supplies and feed the hungry. Today, we have transitioned from giving emergency aid to reconstructing homes and developing partnerships between parishes and community members, particularly on Staten Island.

Hope and Help

Darrell Hayes, who serves as the Staten Island Disaster Response Coordinator for the Episcopal Diocese of New York, facilitates volunteer-based recovery initiatives in affected neighborhoods. With the help of local priests, Hayes has identified families who have the highest needs and nowhere else to go, and initiated targeted, long-term efforts to rebuild their homes. Hayes’ team includes five Episcopal Service Corps interns who live in the rectory of St. Paul’s Church and lead volunteer groups from around the country in dry-walling, installation, painting and more. To date, almost 2,000 volunteers have helped with the reconstruction of 23 homes on Staten Island, and there are more to come. The power of EDNY’s collaborative, united recovery effort is apparent.  “God has a hand in all of this,” says Hayes. “That’s why it works so well.”

Operation Warm

One particularly joyful morning in our rebuilding efforts came last Saturday when children from Staten Island’s Midland Beach neighborhood (an area hit hard by Sandy) were provided with free, brand-new winter coats through Operation Warm and a grant from BNY Mellon. Darrell Hayes and Episcopal Service Corps intern, Erin Stumbras, piled hundreds of coats into their pick-up truck and parked themselves at a neighborhood Halloween event. In between pony rides and face painting, families brought their kids—many of them in Halloween costumes—over to the truck to find a coat that fit them in their favorite color. In an interview afterward, Erin explained her surprise that so few of the children had coats when they arrived on this chilly winter day—the need was clear. We were able to give out over 200 coats to kids ages one to sixteen. Head over to our Facebook page for more photos of this event.

Heart of the Home

Episcopal Charities remains active in the Staten Island rebuilding process through our support of the Disaster Response Coordinator and Episcopal Service Corps interns, as well as our parish partners on the island. We recently joined on to a new effort with the Richmond Inter-Parish Council entitled “Heart of the Home,” which installs new kitchens—complete with appliances and cookware—into storm-damaged houses. To date, Episcopal Charities has committed over $180,000 toward Sandy relief. By working with congregations on the ground, we are able to help communities in need to rebuild their homes and their lives.

If you’re interested in learning more about our efforts on Staten Island, here are some related links:

Multiple articles in the recent issue of the Episcopal New Yorker (page 28 and 29)

A reflection on the anniversary of the storm, written by Darrell Hayes for the Episcopal News Service

Episcopal Relief and Development’s blog post about volunteering with the State Island crew

The Staten Island volunteer Facebook page

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