August 29, 2014


LONG ISLAND, N.Y. (BP) -- In the picturesque coastal village of Freeport on Long Island where superstorm Sandy's surge flooded homes with as much as eight feet of water, neighborhoods look back to normal -- at least on the outside.

Sandy Rebuild project coordinator Bill Johnson said people from the affected area and beyond often ask him, "Why are you still here?" ...

Eleven months after the storm, streets are clear of debris and most of the dumpsters that were filled with saltwater-soaked furniture, appliances and ruined contents of homes are gone. But pod storage containers still sit on driveways as homeowners work on the interiors of their homes. One local refers to the sight as the "new normal."

Freeport is among the many affected areas where volunteer teams are working in New York and New Jersey to help homeowners put their lives back together. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) is part of the effort.

Many residents like Barbara and Brian Hindley, who are in their 80s, didn't expect the magnitude of the surge and rode out the storm. Residents continue to live in their flooded-damaged homes, some with only partial power, while repairs are made.

"We watched the water coming up the stairs," Barbara Hindley said. "We didn't expect it. We sat in chairs with blankets in the dark and waited for the night to be over."

SBDR teams from North Carolina and Maryland did a complete tear-out of the first floor, built new stairs and floors. The Hindleys continue to live upstairs amidst ongoing repairs.

Southern Baptists plan a two-year Sandy Rebuild effort, said Mickey Caison, SBDR recovery coordinator and overall director for the initiative. The partnership includes the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and North Carolina Baptist Men working in cooperation with the Baptist Convention of New York, Metro New York Baptist Association, New Jersey Net and local churches throughout North America to repair and help restore communities. Most of the work is on Long Island, where more than 60 percent of the state's recovery needs are located, and on Staten Island and in Allenwood, N.J.

"Historically, SBDR is good at response with almost 90,000 trained volunteers and 1,600 mobile units," Caison said. Now, he said, "Our goal is to build a robust system of rebuild and recovery like Southern Baptists already have for disaster response.

"Recovery can take two, three or more years," Caison said. "We've brought the help in the past and started the healing, and there's been a lot of times where we've shared the Gospel so we've brought hope in unique places. But by going in now with the rebuild and the recovery aspects of things we can stay involved with that family sometimes for weeks or months."

Robert Kennedy, mayor of the village of Freeport, said he's thankful Southern Baptists and other groups are helping the community of 50,000 recover. Four thousand homes were damaged and 500 are still vacant. Sixty to 75 homes are tagged for demolition.

"We're cautiously optimistic here," Kennedy said, "but everyone is a little nervous about storms now." Read More

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