After the Storm, We Come Together

chalices at UUCSV

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Susquehanna Valley (UUCSV) in Northumberland, Pennsylvania lights a chalice every week as do so many other Unitarian Universalist congregations.  They light a second chalice for the Unitarian Church of Staten Island and Staten Island, hit so hard by Hurricane Sandy.

In the early weeks after the storm unleashed her fury on much of the Northeast, the Rev. Ann Keeler Evans and Scott Rubin (UUCSV) reached out to the Unitarian Church of Staten Island (UCSI), offering to leverage their grocery card purchases to help out Staten Island.  Realizing that they are a small congregation (just like the Unitarian Church of Staten Island), they wanted to concentrate their resources most effectively to help in the aftermath of the storm.  They also experienced serious flooding in a storm so they knew what it was like.  Over the past six weeks, they have been sending grocery cards at first; then as the needs changed, they got Home Depot cards and as the requests come in for Sears cards, they will supply us those as well.  They get the cards at a reduced rate and then are able to purchase more dollars worth of gift cards which they pass on to Staten Island.  Recently, I told them about a need for one of the Catholic Churches that provides hot meals for Sandy families who ran out of funding to buy food and they immediately sent grocery cards to help out.  When they send a batch of cards, I am in touch with various groups on Staten Island and disperse them where they are needed.  They have provided thousands and thousands of dollars of help here on Staten Island through their generosity and love and they tell me they plan to keep an ongoing relationship with our church and with Staten Island.  They have indeed been a source of compassion and strength as the Unitarian Church of Staten Island struggles to provide some relief from the  storm.  We plan to visit one another’s churches sometime in the spring–an incredible example of our congregational polity!

Other Unitarian Universalist congregations, individuals and community members have sent along checks, brought donations and even delivered 40 bunk beds to Staten Island.  All Souls Church in Manhattan donated their  annual toy collection to Staten Island and they will go to one of our partner organizations and friends, El Centro del Inmigrante, who have identified 150 immigrant families on Staten Island in serious need after Sandy hit our shores (my next blog will be totally about the great work and wonderful service that El Centro del Inmigrante, a day labor organization, is doing on Staten Island). The Central East Regional Group (CERG) fund has helped out two families on Staten Island that we requested aid for.  And the Unitarian Church of Staten Island, a church of only 100 members or so, has raised funds for CERG and for helping out our members, friends and community members who lost their homes and apartments during the storm. We also connected medical doctors and nurses from Mt. Sinai to Staten Island to help provide medical care for families in need.Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church in Racine, Wisconsin sent gift cards of various kinds for two families in Staten Island related to one of our members.

As I said in the opening weeks after Sandy, our members have helped muck out and pack up houses devastated by Sandy. In fact, I find out more all the time about people who are part of the wider community on Staten Island who only recently tell us what happened to them.  Members have opened their houses to people in the community, been willing to provide hospitality and have worked with a number of grassroots organizations like Occupy Sandy Staten Island, Staten Island Strong and so many others.  We have sorted clothes and organized them at the Castleton Hills Moravian Church in preparation for a gigantic clothes distribution in February.  Some friends of the church lost their jobs because of their volunteer work. We held a fundraiser for Sandy efforts through our monthly Soulful Sundown and heard from bands and speakers about the impact of Grassroots Volunteer Organizations on Recovery Efforts.  This church houses weekly meetings of what we hope will soon be a Long Term Recovery Group on Staten Island initiated by the Staten Island  Clergy Leadership.  Today we had 50 or more people at our meeting which ended with a viewing of Governor Cuomo’s State of the State Address–hoping to hear what he had to say about Sandy recovery and assistance from the state. Regardless of his State of the State message, we will remind our elected officials to keep recovery efforts and remediation among the top priorities in the State of New York.

                                       1 9 13 long term recovery group in formation meets at ucsi The Unitarian Church of Staten Island’s Parish Hall full of clergy, community service organizations and organizers working on coordinating long term recovery efforts on Staten Island–our group is now upwards of 80 people

This outpouring of love, generosity and good will from people across the country and from fellow Unitarian Universalists is an affirmation of how we can serve to build the Beloved Community–by being there for one another in our individual communities and then spreading that love and care out as widely as possible.  One act of love grows and grows when it is linked to that of our sister churches and when we serve our neighbors, those we do not know and can only imagine in our hearts and souls.

May all be blessed with a sense of unity and common cause during this beautiful season, with all the suffering and tragedy near and far and around the world.  If ever we needed to see how we are all interconnected, it is now as we reel from the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut and the devastation wrought by Sandy.

Faithfully yours,
Susan Karlson, Minister
Unitarian Church of Staten Island

A big thanks to all of these people, congregations and organizations who gave of their time, talent and treasure (in no particular order). For privacy, I am leaving out the last names of individuals but I hope you know who you are. In the chaotic early days after the storm, many people volunteered or donated and we did not get your names.  We also thank all of you anonymous donors and volunteers who came in touch with us but we failed to get your name.  We are grateful to you all :

Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Susquehanna Valley (UUCSV), Northumberland, PA, where past storms devastated their counties continue to send thousands and thousands of dollars worth of gift cards for Stop and Shop, Home Depot and Sears to UCSI and establishing an ongoing relationship and commitment between Staten Island and Northumberland, PA
All Souls Church, Manhattan via the Rev. Lissa Gundlach—truckload of donations and volunteers on many dates
All Souls Church, Manhattan, via Taryn Strauss—new toys donated and given to El Centro del Inmigrante
4th Universalist—via Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt, truckload of donations
The Rev. Craig Hirshberg—vol. for 3 days and took phone calls, coordinated and gave donation
The Rev. Jef Gamblee—vol. for 3 days and took phone calls and worked with donations
Gift cards for family of one of our members from Olympia Brown UU Church, Racine, WI
The Rev. Ana Levy-Lyons and Jeff Levy-Lyons and others from  First Unitarian Brooklyn
Unitarian Church of Staten Island– donations to CERG Unitarian Universalist Disaster Fund and Minister’s Discretionary Fund for Sandy survivors
Unitarian Church of Staten Island–space for donations, meetings of SI Clergy Leadership, coordination and referral of donations and volunteers, work with Occupy Sandy SI and El Centro, mittens, socks, hats and scarves to El Centro, church volunteers muck out on numerous dates, help members and friends clean out and pack up, and provide shelter for displaced people and for volunteers, work on Long term recovery groups and with other organizations to advocate and move forward with recovery efforts
Castleton Moravian via Pastor Lynnette Delbridge, took many loads of clothes, sorted and boxed them and will give away in January, fixed hot food for volunteers at the Unitarian Church of SI
Vanderbilt Ave. Moravian Church, cooked food
Mario B, hot cooked food
Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockville, MD—cards and letters  of support, Rockville, MD
Majid Ma’Saalam Mosque, Coney Island, NY
Jerry, Silver Lake Temple
 Win Transport, Inc., Eastern Shore, MD-53 foot tractor trailer  of needed supplies, 3 county wide sale of soybeans and bought needed supplies and donated them
NYPD
Downtown Market, Amit Patel, Brooklyn, NY
Jennifer B, Food Allergy Kids of Atlanta
Kirsten Hess for RJ Julia Booksellers
Karen H from Atlanta, GA, food, non allergy, amino acid formula
Al and Kim F, Oxford Fire and Ambulance, Oxford, CT donations and took vols with them
Philly Cheesesteak (part of Time Warner Hot food to SI) provided food and took 6-8 vols. With them
Linda P—500 lunches and other services from affiliated law office
A donor of about 100 bound and beautifully wrapped Bibles mailed to us and we didn’t get your name or information –they were much appreciated and gratefully received
Rebecca F, Manhattan Law Firm
Hiroko O from Creative Community
Robert Kee of College of Staten Island contacted us about faculty, staff and students volunteering
PS 39-food collections
Scent sations Candle company donations
Carol DM company collection
Sue S, North Royalton Unitarian Universalist
Eric with Americaworks
Robin—All Souls
Chuck M, All Souls
David A, All Souls
Natasha K All Souls
Musa K, All Souls
Maryah, All Souls
Griffin W
Garnett L, First Unitarian Brooklyn
Lara and Jay
Richard G
Rene S
Terri L
Chad H
Susan A
Donna C
Luanne T
Faye of SI Realtors
donor from Grosse Ile, MI
McM
Karen Meyer and Jessica C
Amy And James B
Jill and Nathan J
Jeff S
Jennifer P
Brigid O’H.
Quincy
Mary H, Ana and Luis
Raffaella
Linda L
Sally J
Maureen C
Mike S
Kathy S and Tom S
John A and Rafael MP
Eric P
Winsome J and Diane M
Christine G
Kristin Nand Michael B
Kirsten E
Matthew Z and Ray P
Laurie and partner
Drew and Laurie F
Derrick
Jeff P
Christine C
Victoria A
Lisa and Sophia I
Natalie S
Noelle G
Mia T
Sue B
Linda T
Gregg and Kelli L
Christina R
Southside Nazarene, Tilton, IL
Chris C
Donna C
No name, shipped from Glendora, CA
Celia and David E
Sarah and Rebecca K
Dan and Michelle O
Oindrila S
Johnny and Andrea M
Joanne S
Rigo and Adriana S
Lisa Y
Simao H
Nicole
Ed Y
Nickie A
Valerie M
Aaron and John C
Jack L
Candice H
Elizabeth A
Dan T
Jenny K
Courtney S
Jenna G
Ryan
Jamie
Stacey G
David D
Lia L
Brandon M
Tiffany and Stephen O
Steven T
Nancy E and Michele L, (SIPE)
Jim S
Tracy P
Clarissa P
Victoria
Family Fruit
Nick G from Fordham University
Kirsten S
SI Academy student
Eileen F
Gary D
K. G
Dena and Zen and Melissa G
Montgomery MCC FC 
Toby A
Deborah R
Mary C
Rich F
Maria K
Sandy T
Pooja K
Carstin
Mariah
Lily Z
Jacqueline and Gary
Heather C
Zohra D
Ryan K, PIMCO
Cynthia L
Gemma A
James
Paul D
Tim N
Susan K
Philip G
Kary B
Arnet H
Atoosa M
Marisa W
Risi C
Kirsten 
Teresa M
Stacy W
Eddy O 30 bunk beds (break down to 60)
Ross Fed. Tech
Matt A
Juliet M
Daphne Y
Margie S
Justin
Monetary Donations sent to UCSI
 Amy and James B
Jill and Nathan J
Lisa S
Diane C
Harry H
Marge B

Margaret and Richard C

Sally J
Rona S
Randy L
Ruth L
Tom and Kathy
John A
Mark and Viv
Edward and Marilyn G
Unitarian Universalist Meeting House, Chatham, MA 02633
Sara  T and Joseph C
 Danny and Diane C
 John  O and Verdena G
 Sylvia Z
Jeanette R
Linda S
Jill H
 Diane S
Grace V
Judith D
Marge B
David and Sally J
Robert  and Sidney K
John and Patricia W
Laura and Jonathan B
Aline  L
Edward .& Jennifer A
Gregg F and Leah  B
Those attending the Soulful Sundown Sandy Fundraiser at the Unitarian Church of Staten Island
Elaine and Zhahai
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Binghamton, NY
Jill and Nathan  J
Jennifer H
Daniel  and Susan P
The Rev. Craig H
Michael J
Jerry and Lynne A
Amy and James B
Susan  and Avril P
Stanton and Barbara W
Nancy and James P
Gulf Coast Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
Alison T
Mary Ellen F
Jean W-P
Linda. B
Barbara O
Dixie F
Jane O
The Bulldog Ball Club LTD,  New York, New York
Mary and Mary  W
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Oxford, Oxford, MS
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Galveston Texas
Unitarian Universalist Channing Church of Rockland, Massachusetts
and numerous others wishing to bring volunteers in the wake of Sandy
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