Hurricane Sandy: Students Serve New Jersey Relief Effort
by Hailey Bryant, Journalist Intern
Last month Hurricane Sandy caused massive destruction to the east coast, obliterating neighborhood after neighborhood. With such widespread damage within driving distance of Nashville, Lipscomb Missions held a meeting to discuss proactive relief efforts at the first sign of trouble. However, it was New Jersey native and freshman Peter Chimera who actively began the process of organizing an official trip for the University’s Thanksgiving Break.
Chimera explains how he knew that he wanted to organize some sort of relief effort, but was shocked by how easily it came together, saying, “I thought it would be really difficult to get a team together, but I just went to Dean Scott McDowell and he was very helpful and supportive.”
This team of 12, comprised of nine students and three staff, departed campus early in the morning of Friday, November 16th. After an eighteen-hour van ride, the team arrived on site ready to work four long and physically demanding days. Team leader and Highrise Head Resident Mike Smith described the team, explaining, “Most of the volunteers were day students and did not know each other at all.” He continues to describe how that all changed due to the travelling circumstances, saying, “During that eighteen hour van ride to the site, they all got to know each other really well.”
Such a quickly assembled trip made for last minute accommodation needs for the team. That is where freshman Jessica Wright, also a Jersey native, came to the rescue. Her hometown church family at Tabernacle Church of Christ welcomed the group, as she explains, “To see my church family come together to welcome this group of Lipscomb students was extremely encouraging and revealing of God's power. I knew that the Tabernacle church family is extremely generous and welcoming, but they far exceeded any expectations I had.” Wright’s church reached out in incredible ways, including providing numerous meals and homes for the team each night. Having grown up going to Long Beach, the area where the team spent their time, Wright is immensely grateful for her school’s passion for those in need, as she expresses, “To know that Lipscomb was the start of a rebuilding process, both physically and emotionally for those with destroyed houses is extremely encouraging.”
The diverse group of volunteers came together quickly and worked well as a team. “It was hard work,” Smith explains, “We were going into houses and ripping out everything, the flooring, bathtubs, drywall, furniture. We took out basically everything but the studs of a house.” The team was faced with grueling tasks, yet they made the most of their experience and found it to be rewarding.
When asked if there is any particularly memorable moment from the four-day relief effort, Smith cites a 79-year-old homeowner as having a potent impact upon the team. “This man comes up to us to say how grateful he is for our work,” says Smith. The man continues to explain that he has never been religious, but upon seeing the overwhelming obliteration caused by the hurricane, he prayed for help. Right after doing so, he walks up to his home to find the Lipscomb team hard at work on his property. “Seeing that man’s reaction was powerful,” states Smith.
After their work was done on Tuesday, the team once again loaded into the van for the long ride back to Nashville. Returning just in time to spend Thanksgiving with their families, the group undoubtedly found the holiday to have a different meaning after their experience of befriending and serving the people of New Jersey.