Lutheran Social Ministries of NJ Remains Committed to Storm Recovery, Rebuilding

It has been one year since Superstorm Sandy ravaged the Garden State, and Lutheran Social Ministries of New Jersey (LSMNJ) remains committed to serving as a long-term recovery and rebuilding resource for state residents. “As an agency, we have a strong disaster-response affiliation,” says Amy Pennenga, disaster recovery coordinator for LSMNJ. “Sandy recovery is a multi-year process, and as the local affiliate for Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR), a ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America we continue to offer help, hope, and prayers to those still in need through our work with national, state, and local organizations, as well as through interfaith partnerships.”

In the months following the storm, LSMNJ was instrumental in helping organize four, countywide, long-term recovery groups (LTRGs). They continue to provide funds for the LTRG’s “Unmet Needs” tables; to date, LSMNJ has funded six cases in Monmouth and Ocean counties, directly aiding 13 individuals get back in their homes.

In addition, LSMNJ connects disaster-recovery volunteers from across the country and Canada with volunteer rebuilding efforts. To date, LSMNJ has facilitated the work of 62 volunteer groups, consisting of 1,195 volunteers who worked 13,174 volunteer hours, worth a labor value of more than $370,000. They worked on 63 different homes, helping that many families come closer to recovery. This is all made possible by the partnerships of LSMNJ and churches that serve as host sites. In a perfect example of resource sharing, Long Branch Covenant Church in Long Branch and Reformation Lutheran Church in West Long Branch combine their resources to serve as a double-host site to volunteers, sponsored by LSMNJ. Together, they provide meals, overnight accommodations, and showers for volunteers. Two more host sites are in the works.

Last July, LSMNJ helped bring “Camp Noah” to locations in Toms River and Long Beach Island, serving over 90 elementary-age children. The camp facilitates healing after disaster and builds resiliency through music, arts and crafts, stress-reducing exercise, puppet shows, and reading and sharing time. Two more camps will be held next summer, and more are planned in the future.

In addition to ongoing volunteer opportunities, LSMNJ sponsors a “Hand in Hand” Sandy Service Day once a month. Together, volunteers of all ages gather to help their neighbors do yard work, move belongings and furniture, and complete handyman jobs; they have even cleaned up a wildlife refuge and a relief center. Upcoming “Hand in Hand” dates include November 16th, December 14th, and January 20th.

“It’s an amazing gift for us to be able to do this work,” says Pennenga, “and we so appreciate the positive responses we receive from congregations, volunteers, and aid recipients. On the one-year anniversary of the storm, it’s important that we all remain dedicated to the long-term recovery effort.”  For information about ongoing volunteer opportunities to help Sandy survivors, Pennenga invites you to contact her.