More than 300 youth volunteers and chaperones from 33 congregations in the ELCA Nebraska Synod converged on New Jersey towns hardest hit by 2012’s Superstorm Sandy to help with the ongoing rebuilding, repairs and gathering of information about outstanding recovery needs.
The group, including about 65 pastors and chaperones, made its semi-annual youth mission trip in July to “Restore the Shore,” where many homeowners are still displaced or dealing with damage from the storm.
Amy Pennenga, disaster recovery coordinator for Lutheran Social Ministries of New Jersey, arranged for the large group’s room and board at a local university. “They’re rock stars,” said Amy of the volunteers who arrived in six coach buses that transported them around New Jersey for the three days of work.
Amy, who was hired after the storm, said this was the largest of the many volunteer groups she has worked with. When she got the call from Kari Fry, administrative assistant at St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church in Omaha, “I was shocked,” she said about the size of the group. “Once my heart started beating, again I realized I had a year to plan it. It was a good challenge, even a bit intimidating. But we’re all so thankful for the help. They were an incredible group of people. I’ve never met such a hard-working group of teens.”