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9-07-11 President Barack Obama visits a flood relief center in Paterson, NJ
First Paterson SDA Church of NJ leads community partnership effort to lift spirits and provide hope.
PATERSON, NJ — In the midst of a tour of the devastated communities in Patterson, NJ, President Barack Obama visited a flood-relief staging location in the parking lot of the Lowes Home Improvement store in Paterson, New Jersey. The President met with residents whose homes were flooded by Hurricane Irene and local volunteers who helped lead the disaster relief effort. "Many Americans are still at serious risk of power outages and flooding, which could get worse in coming days as rivers swell past their banks," President Barack Obama said Sunday, adding: "The recovery effort will last for weeks or longer."
“President Obama thanked us for giving back to the community and being there to help others in their time of need,” said Pastor David L. King of the First Paterson Seventh-day Adventist Church. Pastor King was the lead director and organizer of the community faith-based initiative to quickly identify community partnerships and to set-up the large disaster relief operation.
Over 3,000 people were on hand for Obama's visit, King said. The president joined by Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey spoke with residents in the parking lot for nearly half an hour, spending most of his time listening to them talk about flood waters damaging their homes and cars. He also congratulated the volunteers for "doing what Americans do in times of crisis.....pull together” according to Pastor King.
New Jersey was declared a federal disaster area after homes and businesses were flooded following Hurricane Irene. The rising Passaic River forced thousands of people from their homes and caused extensive area power outages. More than 2000 residents had to be evacuated and over 500 families spent the previous week in local shelters as businesses and community clinics were shuttered by the 100 year storm according to Ora Jane Bell, Adventist Community Services Director – First Paterson SDA church and local member of C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team)
Utilizing 310 Allegheny East Conference volunteers, First Paterson SDA Church Community Services served as the local coordination organization hub to provide logistics and distribution of nearly $200,000 worth of food products, personal care items and cleaning supplies to 1,226 families (representing 3,337 individuals). All commodities, from three tractor trailers dispatched from the Feed The Children warehouse in Nashville, Tenn., were distributed before 2pm. Feed the Children is a Christian, international, nonprofit relief organization that delivers food, medicine, clothing and other necessities to individuals, children and families in need in times of famine, war, poverty, or natural disaster. “It’s just an awesome feeling to take care of hundreds of people during a time when they need our support the most” says John Ricketts, Disaster Services Manager for Feed The Children
Meals for Kids, known for preparing and delivering individually catered hot and cold lunches to children, also partnered with First Paterson SDA to provide over 800 hot lunches and meals to the community residents and volunteers. “Once we got the call from Elder Burt-Miller from First Paterson SDA, it only took minutes for us to say YES” said Owners Sean and Jackie Collins.
Lowes “Heroes” program quickly provided volunteers from other NJ Lowes locations to respond and support the relief effort as well. In addition to their employee/volunteers, Lowes also provided the staging location, bottled water, buckets, security and the canopies to register local recovering residents. “We believe community involvement extends beyond the stores. “Whether it's helping with natural disaster recovery or taking an active role in programs that make our neighborhoods better places to live, we are committed to helping our neighbors through alliances with well-respected organizations.” says Michael Bergamo, Lowes General Manager.
Lowe's Corporate initiated the original idea to help the community by quickly mobilizing their internal resources within 1 week to identify a partnership with Feed The Children who then in turn contacted their local partnership Minnie McNeil of Columbia Union Conference and Director Adventist Community Services (ACS). McNeil quickly reached out to Pastor King to request his assistance. She says, “ACS was chosen for 2 reasons”:
1. “Seventh-day Adventist ACS are founding members of the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (National VOAD), a forum of organizations sharing knowledge and resources throughout the disaster cycle —preparation, response and recovery— to help disaster survivors and their communities.”
2. “ACS remains very well connected, relevant and committed to local communities nationwide”
Members of National VOAD form a coalition of nonprofit organizations that respond to disasters as part of their overall mission.
Additional support and partnerships included, the New Jersey Conference Adventist Disaster Relief team (ADR), along with Paterson-based Seminary Baptist Church and Redeemed Tabernacle who brought teams of volunteers of all ages out to assist with the distribution of relief items. “It is great to see like faiths come together for a common mission. We are all out here trying to move the misery out of people’s lives by working together and we look forward to this continued partnership” said Reverend Alfred Steele of Seminary Baptist.
We are prepared to serve and feed the people both physically and spiritually. Many of our residents have no where to go, so we are going to do the best we can to help them” says First Paterson SDA First Elder Dewitt Evering, who also served as site manager of relief operations.
Meanwhile, several residents expressed gratitude and appreciation while standing online for as long as 2 hours to register and get there relief items. “This is absolutely wonderful” says Brenda, “I lost everything and my three daughters are not going to be able to start school this week until I can get back on my feet”.” Life-long Paterson residents Kathy and Greg expecting a baby in 1 month said they have not been able to get to her home on Haledon Street since Sunday, when she had water up to her knees in her own living room. Our apartment was condemned this week and we have been in a shelter and we need all the help we can get. We don’t even know where we are going to live now”.
Paterson Mayor Jeffery Jones urged patience as inspectors examined the homes, which he said, might not be done until after Tuesday. "Paterson is particularly hard hit," ….."Tremendous devastation."
"I'm so pleased with the outpouring of support and efforts of all our volunteers," said Pastor King. "We have a terrific team who believe in our motto 'mission within our borders'. It is because of them and our partners that we were able to distribute”:
· Over 3,337 residents served.
· Over 800+ meals served.
· 100+ ready-to-wear clothing articles
· 2000 pre-packaged boxes of food
· 2000 boxes of personal care and hygiene items
· 20 pallets of miscellaneous goods
· 70 pallets of water, ready-to-eat food, baby food, diapers, cleaning products, buckets and much more for our Paterson residents.
Pastor King summarized the 2 day effort saying, “Our community came together to lift spirits by living our faith and provide people with help and hope. This is an opportunity to share to share the love of Jesus with the victims of this disaster. We strengthened our footprint in this community with new partnerships and we plan to continue our efforts to heal this community long after the flooding is gone.”
(Photos: Top left, Obama poses with Pastor David King; right, The Paterson SDA Community Services hub to provide logistics and distribution of nearly $200,000 worth of products; bottom left, an NJC ACS DR volunteer providing relief)
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