Sandy Recovery: Still Doing God’s Work

Sandy Recovery: Still Doing God’s Work


Three years ago today, Superstorm Sandy pummeled the coastlines of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey with devastating wind and flooding. As we mark today’s anniversary, we remember those who were lost to the storm, but also celebrate the progress of the recovery, and take stock of what work remains to be done.

Credited as the second costliest hurricane since 1990 with an estimated cost of $75 billion, Sandy damaged or destroyed more than 653,000 homes in the tri-state area. Some of the hardest hit areas lay within the boundaries of the New York Conference in Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island and Connecticut. The death toll across the path of Sandy was at least 233, with 49 lives lost in New York City – 24 of those in Staten Island alone – and three deaths in Connecticut.

In response to the disaster, hundreds of volunteers from the New York Conference and across the UMC connection answered the call to help early on in the recovery and rebuilding phases. But as time has passed, the volunteer numbers have dwindled. People may even assume that everything is back to “normal.”

As Rev. Tom Vencuss, the NYAC’s coordinator of disaster recovery ministries, wrote in the October issue of The Vision:

“In many ways, this recovery effort has been forgotten; and when the media does focus on it, it is often to describe what hasn’t been done or to highlight a negative story. Unfortunately, there is much that remains to be done; and some have had some absolutely awful experiences during their recovery.

But today, as we approach the third anniversary of the storm, I’d like to focus on some good news, the good work that is being done; and especially the good work being done by the volunteers and staff of the NYAC Sandy Recovery Ministry.

Supported by grants from UMCOR, the American Red Cross, Newsday/McCormick, donations from individuals and churches, and the efforts of hundreds of volunteers from around the country, we have assisted almost 800 homeowners in their recovery in the last two years. In some cases we may have provided something as simple as a washer or dryer, and in other cases a near complete rebuild. We have provided disaster case management, emotional and spiritual care, and a “presence” in the midst of chaos.”

A special report, “The Voices of Sandy Recovery,” produced by the conference looks to shine a new light on how the recovery from the hurricane has affected homeowners, volunteers and those involved in coordinating the rebuilding efforts. A series of stories, videos and photographs are available on the web site at, and will be featured daily on the conference Facebook page. The report is a collaboration of Revs. Joanne S. Utley and Arthur McClanahan, director of communications for the Iowa Conference and a former member of the NYAC.

Many of the organizations involved in the recovery will be ending their involvement at the end of this year. But with a reputation for being “first in, last out,” the United Methodist Church ­ through the NYAC and UMCOR ­– will remain a presence for at least another year.

“I love the Methodists. I’ve never seen a program like this,” said Susan Shaw, a member of the Episcopal Church who serves as the NYAC disaster recovery specialist in Connecticut.

“What I’ve learned is that “Methodists are hands on . . . that to experience God and to do God’s work is about being out in the community. It’s opened my eyes to what the Methodists do, and what the United Methodist Committee on Relief is doing all over the world.”