A group from The Sanctuary departed for Lindenhurst, N.Y., Tuesday with three large cooking pots and other essentials like blankets, coats and diapers in tow.
“What we’re after is basically to love on these people and let them know they’re not alone in it,” said Pastor Freddie Edwards. “The last thing they need to be doing is worrying about preparing a meal while they’re trying to work and get back in their homes, so we told them to leave that to us. Don’t worry about lunch and dinner - it’s on us.”
Making the trip with Edwards was Associate Pastor Patrick Harris and church members Bobby Davis, Harold Bryant, Randy Davis, Luke Davis and Gwen Couey. The group arrived Thursday after some automobile trouble and is equipped to serve 5,000 meals a day starting today.
Music Minister David Isbell said they left not knowing exactly where they will sleep or when they will return.
“As long as the funds allow it and the need is there, those guys are willing to stay,” he said. “We have a group of six or eight men, most of them are retired, and when they get a chance to go places like this, they do. It’s part of our ministry.”
Over the last decade, church members have traveled to six states providing food and other items during disaster, including Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the April 27 tornado outbreak in Alabama last year. Isbell said the church enjoys using meals to reach out.
“We just believe in getting the church out of the walls and taking it to the streets, as you would say,” Isbell said. “It gives these people a sense of hope and hopefully shows them that other people care. Even though we may only offer them one or two meals, that might be enough to get them through to the next day.”
Having experienced two hurricanes himself in Pensacola, Fla., Isbell said the smallest acts of kindness make a big difference during times of recovery.
“I’ve been one of the people waiting in line for food or a bag of ice,” he said. “Until you’ve gone through it, you don’t really know the impact that is has.”
Hurricane Sandy ravaged the Northeastern coast Oct. 29, causing more than 100 casualties and an estimated $50 billion of damage in the U.S. alone, according to various news reports. Edwards said the destruction is worse than they imagined.
“You hear about it on TV, but it’s a different story standing in the middle of it,” he said. “It’s just a tremendous amount of damage and a lot of hopelessness. These areas are so densely populated, and all of the homes have water damage five to six feet high. Even today, there’s no electricity in a lot of places.”
Personal belongings, furniture and other debris is strewn across the streets, Edwards said, and many people are staying in their homes to protect their remaining possessions from looters. The church is working in conjunction with a Church of God in Lindenhurst to arrange two or three serving locations in the most heavily populated areas. They will continue to serve meals, which cost about 50 cents each to prepare, as long as they are able. Currently, they have the funds to last about 10 days, and Isbell said several groups and churches have already donated since word spread about their trip.
Edwards said the response from locals has been one of gratitude as they have listened to many stories about loss and, in some cases, hope.
“People are so thankful that we’re here,” he said. “You hear so much about people in the North maybe lacking that Southern hospitality and all, but up here, they’re so nice and so appreciative of what we’re doing. And they really need it.”
To make a tax-deductible donation, contact the church at 256-207-2464 or send checks payable to The Sanctuary to P.O. Box 853, Sylacauga, AL, 35150.
Contact Emily Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org.