Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Reaching out to help a devastated community

August 12, 2013 03:27 PM

By William Dietrich-Egensteiner


Hurricane Irene may be a distant memory for those living in the metro New York area, especially in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, but people living farther upstate are still coping with the damage. Even two years after the storm hit, communities in the capital region have a lot of rebuilding to do, so a group of 21 congregants from Emanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church in Pleasantville made the trip up to Schoharie County in early July to help out.


"We started to plan the trip in September [2012] and then Hurricane Sandy hit," Marianne Dietrich, one of the mission trip organizers, said. "Some people questioned whether or not we should do something local and help the areas that were affected by Sandy, instead of going to upstate New York." But the group stuck with the original plan for two reasons: there is still three years’ worth of work to be done in Schoharie due to the damage from Irene, and going away as a group would help foster bonding between congregation members. "We got to know each other better," Dietrich added. "We had fun. And it was inspiring to me to see how hard the participants worked and how much they wanted to help."


emanuel_2Over the course of the week from July 7 to 12, the group participated in a number of projects for Schoharie Area Long Term (SALT) recovery, including ripping down walls, pulling up ruined floors, cleaning mud out of basements, moving furniture out of condemned houses, and cleaning out a barn that was set to be torn down.


Of the 21 members that went, nine were under the age of 20. Eiko Cornelius, who helped with fundraising for the trip, said that it was really good to see the youth get involved. "That was really good to see, how hard they were working," she said. "That’s why I wanted them to go because I wanted them to have hands-on experience."


The group also made an effort to support local businesses. Through their SALT contact, they found several local restaurants to eat at throughout the week.


The Emanuel members could not help but be inspired by the resilience of the people who had lost so much to Irene. One day while working outside of a house, a man came up to the group and started talking with them and cracking jokes. "They thought that waemanuel4s pretty inspiring to see that these guys have gone through all this stuff and they can still find humor and laughter," Cornelius said.


"For me, what was most moving about the trip was to see how committed the people of Emanuel were, from age 7 to 67, to helping others," Pastor Paul Egensteiner said. "And it made me feel really blessed to be their pastor. That’s where I saw God at work."


Emanuel plans on organizing another trip up to Schoharie next year. There is always more work to be done. "Two weeks before we got there, they had another flood that devastated a community," Egensteiner added. "Not only is there a continuing need, but there are new needs for a relatively poor part of New York State."





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