The Voices of Sandy Recovery — Touched by Unselfishness

The Voices of Sandy Recovery — Touched by Unselfishness

Joanne Utley


Touched by Unselfishness

Tom Kurianski took shelter with a friend on the night that Hurricane Sandy made landfall three years ago. He didn’t want to be there to see what might happen to his small cottage that sits just one door down from a canal in Lindenhurst.

Today, he is immensely grateful to the teams of a dozen or more volunteers sent by the United Methodist Church. They have made his home inhabitable once again.

One of Kurianski’s remaining challenges is to have the house raised several feet, an intricate process that may take from six months up to a year.

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Taking Holistic Approach

Gina Grubbs, assistant coordinator for the NYAC Sandy recovery effort, assists in the day-to-day efforts and is particularly aware of the emotional toll that the ongoing recovery has on homeowners and communities.

“Although the house may be all put together . . . some are still feeling the emotional effects,” Grubbs said. “They are almost being re-victimized over and over again because they’re losing hope” as the wait continues.

“One of the biggest roles that the church has is to bring hope,” she added. “That we are standing side by side with them through their journey. They just want an end, they want to be back in their homes . . . displacement has a huge effect on emotional welfare.”

Grubbs has been inspired by the holistic approach of the recovery – it’s not just about the physical recovery, but the emotional one, and the environment, jobs, and recreational activities.

“Everything that brings people joy, that’s what you have to them back to,” she said.

On her first day on the job more than two years ago, Grubbs attended a symposium that changed her thinking about the work.

“A man got up on the stage and said that when you do mission or recovery, it is a privilege,” she remembered. “That changed my whole thinking.”

Grubbs urges incoming teams to set aside their preconceptions about the work and “participate but not anticipate. And be in the moment . . . be open and caring and not project what they think it should be on the survivors.”

Collaboration is Key

Darrell Hayes of the Episcopal Diocese of New York is amazed at the distance that volunteers have come – representing a multitude of denominations from all over the country.

“. . . in the next disaster . . . the easiest way to work is through a collaboration among denominations, you can’t wait for government help,” he said. “If we all get together we can do amazing work.”

COMING TOMORROW: A look at the recovery in Queens, and an interview with Hannah Arnett, the NYAC recovery specialist there.