Frontlines: NY & CT Sandy Recovery Updates - Dec 2015

Frontlines: NY & CT Sandy Recovery Updates - Dec 2015

Disaster Recovery Ministries Team



Message from Tom Vencuss, Sandy Disaster Recovery Coordinator:  Two Sundays ago, Wendy and I were invited to speak at a church in Connecticut, to give an update on the Sandy recovery effort. As we were driving there, it dawned on us that it was the first Sunday in Advent. We began to wonder how to best combine a message on disaster recovery with the overall message of Advent.

That question was answered very quickly as we sat down for worship. The Call to Worship and opening  prayer were filled with phrases of expectation, anticipation, waiting, hope. And isn’t that what so much of our work in disaster relief and recovery is about?

I was immediately reminded of a family in Brooklyn. When I first met them this past July, through our Site Coordinator, they were completely despondent. It had been two and a half years since Sandy and yet still their home was in complete disrepair. Insurance and FEMA funds, and their own personal savings, had allowed them to repair the roof and exterior siding but the interior of the home was in many ways no different than they had found it after the storm. They had run out of available funds, patience, and hope. They talked about the endless appraisals, meetings, phone calls, e-mails, assessments, re-assessments, unfulfilled promises.

It just so happened that the following week we had a team from our Extended Cabinet, led by our Bishop, Jane Middleton, coming in for a week of service. I told the family that on Monday, a team would begin

working in their home.  The husband’s succinct, distressed, response: “No offense, but we’ve been promised many things.”

Well, that Monday, the Cabinet arrived as promised, and started the demolition process. By Wednesday they were starting to replace the ceiling and walls. The Site Coordinator then organized a schedule of volunteer teams and contracted services to continue the work. Meanwhile, the husband worked alongside the teams, and hired his own handymen, to assist the effort. When we visited the family in October as part of a three-year anniversary report, their home was ready to be moved into.

More remarkable than the changes in the home were the changes that took place within the family - particularly the husband. Over the two months, you could see despair, frustration and anger, being replaced by anticipation, expectation and hope. There was a certain lightness about him now.

For two-plus years, they had kept their children away from the house because they didn’t want them to see it as it was. Now, they said, the kids came and ran through the home eager to reclaim their rooms and begin life there again.

Is this not the message of Advent? That our future is not restricted to, nor defined by, our past. That what is happening now is not, and need not be, the defining moment of our lives. That where God is present, and God is always present, there is hope. There is always hope.

This Advent and Christmas, to all who have been a part of this recovery effort, either through your direct participation, gifts, or prayers, we offer, on behalf of all who have been served, a sincere thank you. Because of you, lives have been changed. Because of you, there is always hope.

To volunteer for a weekend, a week, or in our Done in a Day program (if you live close enough to come work for a day and sleep at home), contact our volunteer coordinator at  or call 203-470-1539.  Homeowners are waiting, worrying and losing hope.  You can rekindle that hope, as so many of you have in the past.  We are so grateful for the many who are sharing their time and talents!!   Won’t you consider another trip?

We wish you a blessed and spirit-filled Christmas!

A very good week's work!

VT Team begins repairing outside of CT home