Who You Gonna Call?

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This is the house in Northfield, New Jersey my grandmother lived in until her death in 1943. As of two days ago, it is still standing and appears to be in good shape. It appears to be unscathed by Hurricane Sandy.

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This home was not as lucky. It is no more than twenty miles from my grandmother’s house. That’s the way hurricanes do their thing. Some places appear virtually untouched while others look like a fleet of bombers came through.

The news media had a field day with Hurricane Katrina and the victims in New Orleans. They ignored the victims in southern Mississippi (especially Waveland) where the people took the brunt of Katrina – because people stranded on bridges and stuck in an overly crowded superdome were far more newsworthy. Beside, they could quickly illustrate that FEMA and the President were failing to do their jobs.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the President and FEMA are once again falling short.

We recently took a trailer load of food and other supplies to King of Kings Community Church in Manahawkin, New Jersey. There we learned that a group of Amish men from Lancaster, Pennsylvania were volunteering to travel to New Jersey to help in the rebuilding process. The men wanted to build their own temporary housing to maintain their religious beliefs, but the local government insisted they needed a building permit that would require weeks to go through the bureaucratic process. When the state was asked to intervene to speed up the process, they declined… as did FEMA.

The Red Cross? They had already left the area.

I did not stop at Grandma’s house to inquire about the damages. But I did learn from people living nearby that many homes that look like they made it through the storm without damage had considerable damage caused by the wind and rain.

Many homes had flooded basements. In some cases, the flood waters reached the first floor. The fact that it was salt water added to the problem. While a home may look good from the outside, the wallboard had to be ripped out and replaced. In addition, many homes had to be treated for mold. (Many are still waiting for those steps to be taken.)

Another problem was caused by the sand blowing underneath homes that did not have basements.

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A home such as this had the heating ducts and, in some cases, electrical and plumbing lines destroyed. In order to repair the damage, the sand must be removed. This is not an easy task.

Yet, because the home is still in reasonable condition, the owners are moving back in. There are not a lot of shelters and the people feel more comfortable in their own homes. However, without light and heat, they are at risk from the elements as the temperature drops. A propane area heater (and carbon monoxide) can be deadly… more so than freezing temperatures.

Our church out-reach committee sent a number of labor parties to the Gulf states to help in the rebuilding effort following Katrina. We hope to do the same for the victims of Sandy.

The recovery work in New Jersey has already begun.

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People are emptying their homes and businesses of the useless furniture and building materials destroyed by the hurricane. That is Step One. The next step is to see what the insurance companies, FEMA, and other groups can provide in the way of money to repair or rebuild the structure.

In the not too distant future, these communities will welcome volunteer laborers to help restore and rebuild what was lost. In the meantime, they need help in the way of food and shelter. Cash donations are more than welcome. When people learn they cannot count on FEMA or the insurance companies to finance their rebuilding efforts, they will desperately need the help of generous fellow Americans. (One would think our government that sends billions of dollars to foreign countries to be used to purchase military weapons could stop those payments long enough to help out American taxpayers in need, but perhaps that is expecting too much.)

I recently heard one person say he was more than willing to help the poor, but the millionaires who own the ocean-front properties should fend for themselves. On the surface, that is a reasonable statement. However, a closer examination should shed new light on that thought.

Let’s assume that the million dollar home on the shore is jointly owned by two or three families who combined their resources to buy it. They share the rent it brings in to supplement their social security payments. They are now looking at a need of thousands of dollars to repair it so it can be rented out again. They may not have that money.

In the meantime, there is that “rich guy” who owns the restaurant a block away from the beach. His business was badly damaged by the storm and he needs thousands of dollars to repair the structure before he can reopen. Of course, when he does reopen, if the million dollar beach houses are not available to rent, he will have very few customers. So, he needs the tourist trade to remain in business.

Finally, we have the working class citizens who live several blocks away from the beach or on the mainland. Without the beach front rental properties and the tourist eateries and gift shops, there is no employment.

In plain words, South Jersey relies heavily on tourists. All areas of the coast must be rebuilt or the entire economy of the state is toast.

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I included this picture because it seemed so ironic. Our church annually has an Angel Tree and we encourage our members to buy Christmas gifts for underprivileged children. This year we asked for a number of bicycles. Here are at least three bicycles that will never be ridden by children again.

The two groups we encountered in New Jersey that are making a difference and honestly providing for those who truly need the help are: King of Kings Community church in Manahawkin and the Ocean City, New Jersey C.A.R.E. project.

I encourage you to make a monetary donation to either one of these groups, or send your donation to Christ the King Lutheran Church in Cumming, Georgia and we’ll see that it goes to the people who are in the most need.

Let me warn you that the scam artists are already at work in the area. One family was taken for $2,000.00 by a guy who claimed he could remove the water under their home by setting up two fans to blow the water out. Obviously, he was a blowhard who stole their money!

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