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Allegheny East, Pennsylvania Churches Unite to Help Flood Victims
Story by Taashi Rowe
Lisa and Matthew Musser of the Pennsylvania Conference’s Lancaster church lend a helping hand.
Seventh-day Adventist volunteers from churches throughout the Allegheny East and Pennsylvania conferences worked at five sites throughout Pennsylvania on Sunday to offer aid to their neighbors still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. Just two weeks ago, the Adventist church in Paterson, N.J., partnered with Lowe’s Home Improvement stores to distribute items to a community reeling from flood damage As the home improvement store looked to aid flood victims in eastern Pennsylvania, they again worked with Adventist church members who, with little notice, were quick to volunteer their time, hugs and prayers.
Working from a successful model in Paterson, three organizations focused on replicating their efforts in Pennsylvania. Feed the Children, a nonprofit organization, donated five truckloads of items to Adventist Community Services Disaster Relief (ACS DR), Lowe’s paid for transporting the goods and offered their stores as distribution sites and then ACS worked with the various Adventist churches in and around Lancaster, Sayre, Bloomburg, York and Harrisburg to get the goods out.
Upwards of 140 Adventist volunteers worked alongside Lowe’s volunteers to distribute buckets of cleaning items, food, laundry supplies, storage containers and other needed items. Although coordinators are still compiling the total numbers of people helped, they are estimating that at least 3,000 families received aid on Sunday. Volunteers at the Lancaster site helped 1,800 individuals while the Harrisburg site served more than 800.
“We are living in a rural area and those areas got hit bad,” shared Daniel Chrispell, first elder at Pennsylvania Conference’s Sayre church. They served some 300 families at their location. “We are a small community and thought it was a good amount.” He added that the church members went beyond distributing supplies and set up tents where nurses offered massages, took blood pressures and prayed with those who asked.
“The Lord blessed us,” Chrispell said. “We made a lot of contacts. One our neighbors came down and was totally surprised to see what we were doing.”
Minnie McNeil, ACS coordinator for the Allegheny East Conference (AEC), noted that it was an impressive outcome considering that this was the first time that any of these churches got involved in this type of disaster response effort.
Sung Kwon, ACS director for the North American Division, drove with his family to three of the sites and was impressed with the collaborative spirit he saw. “It was tremendous to see churches from both conferences work together side by side. That is what I call heaven on Earth,” he enthused.
When reflecting on the day, John Peters, pastor for Pennsylvania Conference churches in Berwick, Danville and Shamokin, also noted the spirit of cooperation and thanked the volunteers for their “representation of Christ.” He was also thankful that the churches took the opportunity to serve humanity and was especially happy that Adventist Spanish-speakers from several churches served as translators.
Pastor Michael Dyson, coordinator of the Harrisburg site, said the event made it evident that: “The church wants to work. They want to do tangible work in the community and really demonstrated that at [these] sites.” Dyson pastors the AEC churches of Hillside in Harrisburg and Truth Tabernacle in York.