BAY SHORE, N.Y.—Disaster relief volunteers working on Long Island are “touching people’s lives, I can tell you that,” Glenda Watson, a volunteer from First Baptist Church of Leonard, told the TEXAN on Nov. 7.
The team of 15 SBTC DR workers waited out the cold rain, sleet, and then snow from a nor’easter that blew in that afternoon, delaying their clean-up and recovery work in several cities on Long Island, including Bay Shore, Lindenhurst, Freeport and Long Beach.
The SBTC contingent arrived in metropolitan New York City on Nov. 2 for relief work in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. About 60,000 utility customers who lost power during Sandy lost it again on Nov. 7, the Associated Press reported. Many homes on Long Island were still waiting for power to be restored in their homes before the winter storm blew in.
Disaster relief workers who were helping with clean up and recovery in flooded houses rushed to help homeowners get salvageable furniture and other belongings inside before the sleet turned to snow, Watson said.
The SBTC group, working in tandem with another Southern Baptist team from Tennessee, has developed a rapport with officials in several of the Long Island communities, said George Yarger, pastor of Harbor Baptist Church in Payne Springs.
In the community of Long Beach, Yarger was trying to go through proper channels to get the team in for work. When an off-duty police officer asked him what the disaster relief teams were charging for their services, Yarger replied, “Our services are free; the price has already been paid by Jesus Christ!”
Yarger said the man began to cry, then immediately went to a city official and told her exactly what Yarger told him. Within minutes, they had the clearance with city officials that they needed.
The city has fed the volunteers and given them quick attention to all their needs, Yarger explained. And strangers have paid for their meals in restaurants.
“People are being very open and thankful for the help. There is a wide open door for the gospel here and they need it. They are broken,” he said.
Many homes on Long Island took in four to six feet of saltwater and their cars were submerged. Most of those without power were staying with family or friends and trying to come home during the day to recover what they can.
A week after Sandy hit, Yarger said he drove by a gasoline line that stretched 100 cars or longer. The people in the hardest hit areas are facing weeks of recovery.
“We are going to be here as long as we can,” Yarger said. The teams are deploying in 14-day cycles, SBTC DR Director Jim Richardson said.
In Long Beach, one of the poorer areas on Long Island, dozens of cars were parked in the town square and people there were eating military-style heater meals provided by the federal government. They were using a row of portable toilets and have no laundry service, Watson said.
George Maldonado, a deacon at the First Spanish Baptist Church in Bay Shore, where the SBTC team is housed, said everybody in his community was getting along well but the lack of gasoline was a problem. He has electricity at his home in Bay Shore, he said.
“We need a lot of prayer,” he said when asked how Texans could pray for the people there. “Praying for everything to go back to normal so that we can help people in whatever way we need.”