What do you do when over 300 of your neighbors have been without power for a week, temperatures are dropping, and a second big storm is just days away?
As local families continued to struggle in the cold after Hurricane Sandy, and with a Nor'easter due to hit soon, members of Oxford Second Presbyterian decided something needed to be done to help their community.
Though not quite sure what resources might be available or who would be available to help out, the church facilities had power restored. So, it was decided to open the Chapel as a "Warming Station" from 11 am to 9 pm each day, hosted by volunteers as they were able. At the very least, neighbors would have power a warm place to get a cup of coffee, rest, and recharge phones and other devices.
"We had the confidence to attempt this in large part due to our experience hosting and working with Family Promise/Interfaith Hospitality Network," said Rev. Joicy Becker-Richards, pastor of Oxford Second. "The biggest challenge is getting past feeling overwhelmed - that it's more than you can do. But as a dear friend once said, 'Whatever you can do is enough.' And somehow it grows from there. We had a electricity, so we started by offering heat, coffee, and a place to re-charge cell phones. And it quickly grew from there, with others offering food and time to help. And next time, we plan to be ready to offer more!"
Communication was a huge local problem, so another question was how to get the word out to those who needed help. A sign was set up out in front, announcements were made on radio station WRNJ, and friends posted on facebook, all asking everyone to help "spread the word" to those who might need help.
The result was a wonderful gathering of neighbors helping each neighbors, including those who stopped by to lend a hand or offer contributions toward food. An outpouring of generosity allowed volunteers to prepare hot meals each evening, with takeouts for those who needed them. And as power came on for those who had come to get warm, they in turn brought food to share, or helped with others still waiting for power.
Word was received at the end of the week that most of the outages were resolved, so the warming station was closed following dinner that Friday evening. But Oxford Second has already started planning for ways it can help with any future emergencies.
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