Click here for the latest Disaster Preparedness and Response Plan.
In partnership with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance the Presbytery of Elizabeth has created a Disaster Preparedness and Response Commission. For more information about PDA please follow this link.
In the spring of 2012, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance led a workshop for 14 presbyteries in the Synod of the Northeast. Out of the energies of that workshop, the Presbytery of Elizabeth created a task force to revise its disaster response plan. That task force became the Disaster Preparedness and Response Commission(DPRC) of Elizabeth Presbytery. That revised plan was approved and the commission elected at the September, 2012 presbytery meeting.
Hurricane Sandy devastated New Jersey and the region 5 weeks later.
Fortunately, the Presbytery had a mechanism available to response effectively to this disaster by calling forth the compassion and generosity of Christ’s people.
The DPRC sought and received a $10000 grant from PDA to begin its work. Damaged churches, especially First Presbyterian in Elizabeth and Middlesex Presbyterian received financial assistance including monies from churches outside the bounds of our presbytery. Pastors who suffered damages were assisted thru the Board of Pensions. We provided matching grants for congregations who provided emergency food and assistance in their afflicted communities. Rev. Bill Weaver provided training for the presbytery on dealing with Spiritual Care in the face of disasters.
Recovering from a major disaster is a long term process. The DPRC is heavily involved with 3 long term entities. In Middlesex and Union counties, we participate actively in the Long Term Recovery Committees(LTRGs). Peter Hofstra serves on the Middlesex LTRG . Their website is http://middlesexltrg.org Bill Weaver, Patrick Weaver, Brooks Smith and Ryan Landino serve on the Union County LTRG. The website for Union County is http://unioncountyltrg.org
These committees bring together the resources of faith groups, the Red Cross, Catholic Charities,Salvation Army, United Way, Legal Services, Hope and Healing as well as local churches, community organizations and some government agencies. The LTRGs connect Sandy survivors with case managers who assess needs and find resources to meet those needs.
Some survivors needs can be met with a combination of government assistance, insurance and their own resources. However, in thousands of cases in the region, the available funds are not sufficient to bring about a family’s recovery. Having worked extensively with families, case managers present selected cases to the Unmet Needs committee of the LTRGs. At that table funds from Red Cross, United Way, the Lutherans, Methodists, Episcopalians and Presbyterians are brought together to provide as much assistance as possible.
Of course, we have also brought hundreds of volunteers to assist families. First Presbyterian in Elizabeth became a PDA volunteer hosting site and 10 groups came from as far away as Kalispell, Montana to help rebuild NJ. These volunteer groups worked mostly in the Union Beach area as well as on Staten Island. First Presbyterian Church in Woodbridge is also now available as a hosting site for volunteer groups.
Mike Rountree of the Basking Ridge church has sustained a ministry of coordinating work groups for Sandy recovery that go to the shore or Staten Island every two weeks on Saturdays. The size of the groups vary widely, but Mike consistently reminds the presbytery both of the need and of the opportunity to serve in Jesus name. To volunteer, contact Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org
The basic organizational structure used to coordinate the work of volunteer groups during and after a disaster is a VOAD (Voluntary ORganizations Active in Disaster). Union County did not have a VOAD when Sandy struck. With some assistance from Leslie Foltz-Morrison we have brought together about 20 organizations to create a VOAD for the county. Individual congregations are invited to participate in VOAD. Contact Andrea Orbe-Martinez at email@example.com or Brooks Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org to be put on the Union County VOAD mailing list. County VOADs are critical organizational structures to prepare for response and recovery for future disasters.
Currently, the Presybtery’s Disaster Preparedness and Response Commission is revising the disaster response plan prepared a year ago in light of the difficult yet hope filled work of the last year. PDA’s slogan is OUT OF CHAOS, HOPE. To make that slogan a reality takes a lot of struggle and work and money.
Middlesex County LTRG Work
The Middlesex County LTRG continues its recovery work as we approach the second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. Over the past summer, we saw the greatest number of rehab and reconstruction projects to date as an organization. With the approach of the second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, our funding partners are seeking to wrap up their work, disbursing the last rounds of money to the LTRG’s. To that end, the LTRG is beginning to consider its own exit strategy, beginning with a reevaluation of how it can make sure it has gotten the word out to the entire County about the ongoing work that it is undertaking. In addition to the physical reconstruction work, the Neighbor to Neighbor program continues as a spiritual care provider to people in need. Most recently, members of the team were certified in Mental Health First Aid as an added tool to their work. Rev. Peter Hofstra, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Perth Amboy, has concluded his work as the Chair of the Executive Board of the LTRG but continue as a member emeritus of the Board and in his role as the coordinator of the Neighbor to Neighbor program.
Great news. The Union County Long Term Recovery Committee has recently received a grant of $250000 from the First Lady’s Fund. Funds will be used to provide direct assistance to Union County residents thru the LTRC. Jennifer Leisure is the director of the LTRC. Elder Patrick Weaver of the Rahway church chairs the LTRC and wrote the grant application.
The DPRC was well represented at the meeting of the Union County Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster(VOAD) meeting with the Union County Office of Emergency Management. About 20 county organizations are committed to working together in disaster preparedness and recovery. Kelly Higgs of First Elizabeth coordinates statewide efforts to build VOADs. Brooks Smith is the chair for the county VOAD. Rev. Jeremy Montgomery, director of Plainfield Area Habitat for Humanity is the co chair. Union County VOAD will meet next on Dec.4 at the Salvation Army building in Hillside.
Presbytery of Elizabeth DPRC: Preparation Fact Sheet: “How Can Churches Help In the Community Response to an Ebola Outbreak?”
This Fact Sheet summarizes information provided by the CDC on their website and in a conference call to Faith Based Organizations for Ebola Preparations in the United States held on Oct. 22, 2014. Rev. Peter Hofstra, Middlesex County Representative to the Elizabeth Presbytery Disaster Preparedness and Response Commission, and OEM Chaplain in Middlesex County, participated in the conference call. For questions or follow up, please contact Rev. Hofstra at email@example.com.