Strike A Chord: Far Rockaway Church Steps Up For Community After Superstorm Sandy
Reverend Les Mullings had only planned for one night.
One night to weather what was to be the largest, deadliest and costliest Atlantic storm on record. One night to keep those who couldn't survive it warm, fed and dry.
"But then we woke up the next day, realizing that we can't send them home," Mullings said. "Whether or not we wanted to continue, we had no choice."
The original 60 who came to the Community Church of the Nazarene on Oct. 29 grew to 150. In a matter of days, Mullings and his team of volunteers were distributing food and clothing to a staggering 2,500 Far Rockaway residents. In a neighborhood already lacking in emergency food services, where many live below the poverty line, and where most ties to the rest of the city were severed in the days and months following the storm, the church became what Mullings calls a "safe haven."
"We've been doing this for over 20 years, but not anything of the magnitude of what happened here during Superstorm Sandy," he said.
Soon after, FEMA, the Red Cross and other relief organizations set up shop inside the church's auditorium. In fact, the Church of the Nazarene became one of the largest distribution and relief sites in New York City. Mullings said it was all made possible because his church was one of the lucky few in Far Rockaway that only suffered minor damages.
A year later, people still come to his door. It's taught him some important lessons.
"We're not really well prepared. We think we are. We're thinking we are, but we're not," Mullings said. "For sure, there were a lot of things that didn't happen, but that should not be our song."
Mullings said he's not ready for another Superstorm Sandy. No one is.