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Volunteers caring for Sandy survivors

Even as the storm spins itself out, faith-based responders are helping


"We anticipate the most urgent need for...volunteers to be in the NY/NJ area, where it is predicted shelters will be open for quite some time"

—Children's Disaster Services

While the national news media focused on flooding, high winds, and costly damage inflicted by Hurricane Sandy, volunteers across the Mid-Atlantic region were caring for evacuees in shelters and thousands of residents who lost electricity.

Children's Disaster Services (CDS) has assigned eight project managers to cover the five American Red Cross regions impacted by the hurricane are helping with assessing the needs of children in the many shelters that have been opened. The organization expects to deploy teams of volunteers later this week as needs are better defined. "We anticipate the most urgent need for CDS volunteers to be in the New York / New Jersey area, where it is predicted shelters will be open for quite some time," said a Monday afternoon report on the organization's Facebook page.

The Salvation Army is serving meals, snacks and drinks at 11 shelters in five counties in New Jersey and is coordinating with the American Red Cross to provide volunteer support at shelters in Suffolk County. In Philadelphia, the organization is working with the city's Office of Emergency Management to set up three shelters in the city.

In North Carolina, Salvation Army volunteers provided meals for residents of shelters in Morehead City and New Bern. Meals were also provided for shelters in Maryland and Virginia.

Other faith-based disaster response organizations are continuing to contact volunteers, members, and partners coordinating rapid and potential long-term response plans and asking for prayers for those impacted.

World Renew Disaster Response Services (DRS) formerly known as CRWRC, said it has placed its staff and volunteers on standby in the region that is expected to be impacted by the storm. Bill Adams, DRS director, said he was concerned the storm would damage communities that sustained damage from other disasters in 2011.

Adams said his organization is working with partners in New York and New Jersey as well as collaborating with faith-based contacts from both the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church -- both have congregations that could be directly impacted by the storm.

“We are working on plans to contact CRC and RCA congregations that could be damaged by Hurricane Sandy,” Adams said. “We want to be able to make assessments in the affected communities and churches as soon as we can get access to them.”

A spokesperson for The United Methodist Committee on Relief contacted all of the annual conferences in the church's Northeast Jurisdiction in preparation for the storm and encouraged its church members to donate to its 2012 Hurricane Appeal. The the Rev. Wayne Jones, Disaster Response coordinator for the Greater New Jersey Conference, said he expects to deploy early response teams once the storm moves out of the state.

Florence Coppola, the United Church of Christ's (UCC) Executive for National Disaster Ministries, has been in contact with the UCC Disaster Response Coordinators Network. Coordinators and other conference staff have been contacting local churches to share information that may be helpful to survive this disaster. "The most important way you may help at this time is to pray and make a donation," she said.

Episcopal Relief and Development said Monday it had contacted more than a dozen Diocesan Disaster Coordinators across the region to discuss response planning. Noting that the storm could last for days, Katie Mears, program manager for US Disaster Preparedness and Response said, "for lots of people, a few days off work means lost income, which can make things tight financially. We've been in touch with Episcopal dioceses all along the East Coast and are ready to support our churches as they reach out to their neighbors."

The NYC Disaster Interfaith Services sent out an email Sunday to say staff and volunteers would keep in touch with members and plan to meet Tuesday "to begin the process of assessing impacts and responding to unmet needs of affected individuals and communities."

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance said that it has contacted its mid-councils along the Atlantic Coast and is ready to respond with support from One Great Hour of Sharing and members of its National Response Team.

The Reformed Church in America, working in partnership with World Renew DRS, said it was monitoring the storm and urged members to assemble flood buckets for Church World Service that could be used in response to the disaster.

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