Volunteers from the Church of the Holy Cross barely had time to warm their feet after a relief trip to New Jersey last week before others from the church headed north to deliver 300 appliances to Hurricane Sandy victims.
What started with a simple desire to help blossomed into a huge response of giving.
“I feel like I’m holding on to a freight train,” said Chris Donavan, a church member who experienced Hurricane Hugo with three small children and wanted to assist Sandy’s victims. She put out a call for donations and was overwhelmed with response.
Her group — with two cars, three trucks, two trailers and 18 local volunteers — traveled to New Jersey to help with tree removal, demolition, repairs and whatever else people needed. They gave storm victims new linens, dishes, toys, gift certificates to Target and Lowe’s worth $5,000 total and other donations.
Linda Rumph, a local librarian who lived on Sullivan’s Island during 1989’s Hugo, led an effort to collect 150 new books and blankets, which volunteers delivered to New Jersey children who lost their homes to Sandy.
“I don’t even have a word to describe what the experience was like,” said Karen Tosh, a Daniel Island mother of two who went on the trip. “Powerful would be a start.”
For instance, while in coastal Manasquan, N.J., she met a single mom whose husband died two years ago. Hurricane Sandy had knocked down a large tree in the woman’s yard, which crushed their swing set. The widow didn’t have the money to remove them, so the Charleston area volunteers stepped in to do so.
The next day, the widow and her middle school-age son showed up to help the Charleston volunteers help others.
“We saw this spirit of hope and gratefulness,” Tosh said. “These were just normal people stuck in bad situations.”
Along with Holy Cross members from its Sullivan’s Island and Daniel Island churches, relief volunteers included members of the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul in Charleston, St. Peter’s Church in Mount Pleasant and St. John’s on Johns Island.
The church’s second relief effort began with an idea from member Daniel Larrabee. He is director of environmental services for Bishop Gadsden, a nonprofit, church-sponsored retirement community that was replacing 60 sets of appliances.
Each set includes a washer, dryer, stove, microwave, dishwasher and refrigerator. The appliances were five to 10 years old and normally would be sold for profit. However, Larrabee approached Bishop Gadsden to donate them all. Its leadership agreed.
Suddenly, the trucks and trailers that Holy Cross’ relief team had planned to use looked quite small.
In stepped church member Philip Stender, who arranged free transportation through Synchronized Transportation and Kenmar Express. Then his brother, Ned Stender, arranged for the Porter-Gaud School football team to load half the appliances onto trucks, which left Saturday and should arrive today in New Jersey. Church members secured a warehouse in Trenton, N.J., where the appliances will be stored and donated as homes are rebuilt or refurbished.
The second half of the appliances will be delivered to the New Jersey shore next week.
Now, relief volunteers including Tosh have invited their newfound New Jersey friends to come stay in their homes over the holidays while they in turn travel. That way, storm victims can enjoy some warmer R&R on Charleston’s beaches and marshes — and see how this region has recovered from its own devastating storm.
Reach Jennifer Hawes at 937-5563 or follow her at www.facebook.com/jennifer.b.hawes.
Charleston-area volunteers pray during a relief trip to New Jersey organized by the Church of the Holy Cross.×
Charleston area volunteers clean up a home in New Jersey that was damanged by Hurricane Sandy.×
Charleston volunteer Paul Cooper works in a damaged home in Manasquan, N.J.×
Karen Tosh of Daniel Island cleans out a store in Spring Lake, N.J. The owner had no insurance and needed to reopen to earn a living.×
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