As victims of Hurricane Sandy deal with the aftermath in states north of our own, some Richmond County folks volunteered to help.
The North Carolina Baptist Men sent several men — including six from Rockingham — with equipment, tools and food to New Jersey where they worked around the clock in several locations to cut trees from houses, tear insulation out of homes and feed the cold and hungry who have been living with no power for weeks.
“We went up on Nov. 3 and stayed for one week,” said Dennis Holloway, team leader. “My first impression was: Pure devastation. You can’t imagine without going. Everything the people owned was in the streets. There was a lot of looting. There were trees on top of houses, homes torn apart, water had surged and there was water and sand four feet inside the homes.”
The teams went to Rutgers University, Piscataway and Keansburg to assist neighborhoods with a chainsaw crew, a tarping crew and a mud-out crew.
“We cut trees off of homes, tarped homes that were leaking and took insulation out of homes so they wouldn’t get mold inside the walls,” said Holloway, who said during that week, 36 homes were assisted. He said people had warned him about the ‘Jersey attitude’ he might encounter, but he said his experience was the opposite.
“The people were so appreciative, they would just cry,” said Holloway. “They couldn’t understand why people had come from North Carolina to help them. They were so receptive and appreciate that we had come up. They still had no power and no heat and it was in the 20s at night. They had no way to cook. A lot had no hope. They’re not going to have power for a while.”
With an entire infrastructure damaged, a warm meal can be a blessing.
“Our feeding unit fed 20,000 meals a day. We worked around the clock, but those cooks, they got up and started at 4 a.m. and didn’t stop until 10 p.m.,” said Holloway.
While Holloway and his men worked in the cold, wet conditions, he said he noticed much of the devastation that he couldn’t help with, such as “yachts in bays stacked on top of each other.” He said many cars had been destroyed in the flood when Hurricane Sandy pushed waves up into neighborhoods. The North Carolina Baptist Men also went to Manhattan and Atlantic City that week as part of their disaster relief efforts.
“Thank God for shower units,” said Holloway. “It was dirty. We had to crawl up under those houses through the mud and water in 20 degree weather. we were the first ones through there from North Carolina and there’s another group going again next week. I might go with them. It costs about $1,000 every time we go, but somebody’s got to go.”
The North Carolina Baptist Men not only helped restore the victims’ homes to be livable, they also gave them hope.
“All of this is just material,” said Holloway. “But God is always there. In time they will get their life back, God will see them through. We just borrow that stuff anyway. We tell them, there is always God.”
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.