A group of volunteers from the Nashville area is just back from serving Hurricane Sandy victims in the Atlantic City, NJ, area. They served in an area where the median income is below the poverty line and many victims didn't know where to start.
"This is their first flood. The overwhelming majority of people have never experienced this," said Jack Minton, the CEO of HopeForce International.
Five volunteers from a Brentwood nonprofit called HopeForce International arrived two days after Sandy and found people, like an 85-year-old woman named Helena, still living in homes that had been saturated with a mix of salt water, sewage and heating oil.
"She was paralyzed in terms of not knowing what to do or how to get started, and one thing we emphasize is the ministry of presence," said Minton.
For many victims, that meant just being there to listen and to advise, and eventually to do the grunt work like carrying out ruined appliances.
Connie Hasty is one of the volunteers who spent days pulling wet carpet and demolishing soggy drywall. One man, Tommy, 83, left an indelible impression on Hasty.
"He'd been staying in front of the fireplace because he didn't have heat," Hasty said.
Tommy had been sleeping for five days on a couch saturated with floodwater.
"He said, 'If you take my couch, what will I sleep on?'" Hasty said.
That is one challenge faced by the team - earning the trust of the flood victims who had never experienced anything like this.
HopeForce volunteers called their work a "terrible privilege," breathing hope into the desperate, like Helena, and walking with her to the point where she can see hope again.
For more on HopeForce International, visit: http://www.hopeforce.org/.
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