Pastor Linda Applegate sat at a long table in the basement of the Lacey United Methodist Church continuously saying thank you. Thank you to the volunteers. Thank you to the businesses of Lacey. Thank you for the support of the other churches. Thank you to God.
She along with the Lacey United Methodist Church was recently nominated on Lacey Patch as the municipality’s person and group of the year for their efforts following Hurricane Sandy.
But Applegate wasn’t saying thank you for the nomination — although she was grateful and said it was “beautiful” — she was thanking the community for its effort as a whole.
“The United Methodist church couldn’t have done this without the community… All the glory goes to God,” Applegate said humbly.
“Nothing that took place would’ve happened without (Applegate). She’s really something special,” said Greg Edgecomb, who spearheaded the cleanup effort at homes that were inundated by the storm surge.
Applegate and the church began preparing for the hurricane before it struck by stocking up on water, flashlights, blankets, generators and other necessary items.
“Never imagining what it would entail,” Applegate said.
Although the United Methodist church trains its members to handle emergencies, nothing could have prepared Lacey for what was to come and it was “overwhelming” at times, Edgecomb said.
“We learned,” said Eric DelaCruz, who cooked hundreds of meals for those displaced and in need.
During the hurricane, 30 people and 10 dogs used the church’s facilities as a shelter.
“There was a lot of anxiety,” Applegate said, adding that no one slept that night while much time was spent keeping calm.
The next day, a canoe was used to get down Lakeside Drive East to get to a church members house.
It wasn’t until two to three days after the storm when Applegate and the church really realized the extent of damage and work was delegated to church members according to their “gifts,” Applegate said.
“The phones were nonstop with people asking for assistance,” Edgecomb said.
And it became a full-time job sorting donations.
From volunteers to donations there was a “beautiful generosity and outpouring of love,” Applegate said.
The number of people who needed meals dramatically increased with each day. Meat BBQ donated 500 meals one day and Captain’s Inn another, which DelaCruz at first thought would be adequate but they went fast.
Michael Orlick, who also worked in damaged homes as well as at the church daily, said that after six years in the Lacey Road location, the church found its place.
“God has brought us what he intends for us,” he said. “The Pastor planted the seed and it just grew.”
Approximately 42 people lived at the church at one time and thousands of meals were going out to locals.
“We didn’t need to do much outreach. It all came to us,” Edgecomb said.
Volunteers as far as Virginia, North and South Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New Hampshire came to help.
“It’s amazing we could be the vessel for people to volunteer through,” Bill Applegate said.
“They were such a blessing for the community,” Pastor Linda Applegate said, referencing a bible verse, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31:
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many…
“This was the body of Christ and every part of the body was in full motion running,” Applegate said of her church. “It didn’t matter what denomination you were or what faith you were or weren’t.”
Everyone from Muslims and Hindus to Jews and Mormons came together and helped, Applegate said.
Teams the church trained and sent out worked on between 150 to 200 homes.
“Someone would say can I help and we’d say yes,” Applegate said.
At first teams were sent to provide meals and check on people. Many families were found without heat or food. There was an elderly couple that may not have made it if volunteers hadn’t knocked on their door, Edgecomb said.
“I thank God that they found refuge here,” he said.
People went door to door and prayed, cried and listened to residents, Applegate said. Which was most important—having compassion, Edgecomb added.
“Cleaning houses and tearing sheetrock was just a fraction of what they did,” he said. “We gave people hope. That was the main thing we gave, hope, more than food.”
The experience has been both “heartbreaking and rewarding,” he said. “I can show you 150 homes but I can’t tell you how many lives we made a difference in by giving support.”
The Lacey United Methodist Church has assisted people as far as Neptune and Atlantic City.
“It was an opportunity to show our faith to God and God provided,” Applegate said. “It is affirmed that God is good all the time, even in the storm.”
There are 16 people still staying at the church and teams continue to go out to gut homes. Call 609-693-5222 to volunteer, donate or ask for help.
A fund has also been established at the church to assist lacey families who continue to struggle after the effects of the superstorm. Donations can still be made and families in need of assistance can apply.
As buckets of cleaning supplies lined the sanctuary’s walls and bags of clothes sat in pews, Edgecomb said, “I don’t think the church has ever looked better.”