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'Back to their faith'

Some people are able to find the good in seemingly bad situations.


"There's a good core of people here helping out."

—Jim Michael

Some people are able to find the good in seemingly bad situations. The Rev. Joe Kelly is one of them. After Hurricane Isabel washed one of his churches off its foundation, he saw the positive effects.

"Before that, we'd only been having about five or so people show up at church each Sunday," said Kelly, pastor of both Hosier United Methodist Church and the severely damaged Hoopers Memorial United Methodist Church in southern Dorchester County, Md. "Now the congregation is up to about 30 people. It's been wonderful."

The damaged Hoopers Memorial building is 115 years old. Kelly said everything in the church was lost from the sound system to the entire heating and cooling system. But he said his congregation decided that they'd rather restore the church than build a new one. "I think this (disaster) brought church back to the center of the community," he said. "It's brought people back to their faith."

He said the church is in the middle stage of reconstruction, having just been elevated four feet.

Many others in the Cambridge area are in similar situations. "Home repair is the main need right now," said Jim Michael, director of the Eastern Shore Interfaith Recovery Team (ESIRT). "There's still a lot of damage, some houses are in pretty rough shape."

Michael said he's currently coordinating schedules for volunteer groups from all over the east coast to come help with the construction efforts throughout the summer.

In addition to the volunteer groups, Michael is also busy with casework. At the end of April, he'll get help with that as a team of AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps members will be arriving to assist with the casework load.

Michael added that he is busy, but he has some great help. "I'm blessed with skilled coworkers," he said. "There's a good core of people here helping out."

Kelly said members from his Hosier UMC stepped in immediately after the storm. The church opened a food bank for the community, as well as started up a relief fund. "We've taken an active role in community restoration," he said. "This has been a great witness - I think the churches are growing because they're reaching out."

From ESIRT to the local churches, Michael said the community is doing a great job of working together. "We try to do all we can to help," said Michael.

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