POINT PLEASANT, N.J. — Sometimes it takes more than prayer to make a difference, and as Rev. James Lawson of Bellemead U.M. Church put it, “prayers need legs.”
Lawson, as well as church members Darlene Haer, Sherry Wallbrown and Paul Nichols, recently made the journey to Point Pleasant, N.J. to accompany the tractor trailer of supplies local residents had collected for Sandy victims.
For nine days in November, residents of Point Pleasant, W.Va., as well as all around Mason County and even Gallia County, Ohio, donated their time, money and supplies to fill a tractor trailer of goodwill for storm victims in a state many have never even seen; for people most have never met or will meet.
Over the course of those nine days, 16,724 pounds of supplies were stacked into a tractor trailer donated by Stover Trucking and then delivered in another trailer owned and operated by R+L Carriers to a church in New Jersey. In addition, $3,671.38 was raised for those storm victims.
Haer said volunteers who worked on putting the supplies together estimate the total amount of services and goods which were provided were valued at around $25,000 — an amazing amount of effort from a small community in West Virginia to a community in the Garden State.
All of the money and supplies were shipped to the Church of the Visitation in Brick, N.J., which is next door to Point Pleasant, N.J. Originally, the supplies were to go to Central United Methodist Church in Point Pleasant, N.J., but that church didn’t have adequate space for the trailer from West Virginia. On that trailer was everything from cleaning supplies, to personal hygiene items, sheets, towels, books for kids, pillows, blankets, dishes, pans, silverware and more. There was even one microwave, as luck, or a higher power, would have it.
Haer said a woman went to Church of the Visitation, telling volunteers all she needed was a microwave to feed her family and luckily, one was there for her after traveling all the way from West Virginia.
“It was the best relief truck that had been sent,” Christie Winters of Brick told Haer. “It really touched the hearts of so many people.”
Winters was one of many volunteers at the Church of the Visitation where visitors from Bellemead U.M. Church helped sort through donations to get them ready to distribute. Haer and Lawson said the volunteers in West Virginia wanted the supplies to go to a church, as opposed to a government agency, because they felt it would get distributed more quickly and church volunteers would have a more intimate knowledge of who was in need in their communities.
For example, Winters told Haer some of the donation money may be used for a family she knew who had their home damaged but had to come up with their insurance deductible before it could be repaired — the family didn’t have the deductible and were living with a damaged house despite having insurance.
There was story after story of people in need and of people surviving the storm, Haer said. Both Haer and Wallbrown stayed with Cindy Maguire, whose dog swam out of a bedroom window with her friend, and swam 10 blocks to get to Maguire during the storm. Then there is the story of how the storm surge was so fierce, Central U.M. Church went from being four blocks away from the beach to two blocks away, after Sandy had blown through.
Though the volunteers and supplies from Point Pleasant, W.Va. arrived in New Jersey a month after the storm, it still “looked like bedlam up there,” Lawson said.
Both he and Haer described the mountains of trash and debris on the streets; beach fronts which were decimated and lost in the sand; homes destroyed by not only water but fires from natural gas lines; electricity still out in places; and residents pointing to what used to be but is no longer there.
The entourage from Point Pleasant, W.Va., also visited with William Schroder, mayor of Point Pleasant, N.J., presenting him with a photo of the Mississippi Belle at the Riverfront Park and a book on sister city, Point Pleasant, W.Va.
Haer said Schroder, along with all the people they met in Point Pleasant, N.J. and the surrounding area, were appreciative of the help and many talked about visiting their new friends in Point Pleasant, W.Va.
Though not all of those who helped are known, at least some of Point Pleasant N.J.’s new friends who worked on the relief project include: 4H clubs, Point Pleasant Women’s Club, American Electric Power’s Mountaineer Plant and Steve Halstead, M&G Polymers, The Army National Guard, AMVETS Post #2, American Legion Post #23, many area churches including Bellemead U.M. Church, Trinity U.M. Church, First Church of God, Main St. Baptist Church, WVU Extension Office, several schools in Mason County, City of Point Pleasant personnel, Fruth Pharmacy, Wal-Mart of Mason, Thomas Do It Center, Foodland, and many more.
Also integral in the relief effort, all area banks which collected donations and some even donated money - Ohio Valley Bank also allowed the trailer to sit on its parking lot. Also, Jan Haddox made the sign that sat outside the tractor trailer parked at OVB - a sign which found its home in New Jersey at the Church of the Visitation, just like the register people from Point Pleasant, W.Va. signed with well wishes to those who had been hit by the storm.
“This was an all-out effort by the community,” Haer said. “We never dreamed it would grow into something that size.”
Lawson agreed, saying the collection took in more than anyone ever expected.
Haer and Lawson said they felt “the Lord was in the whole thing” with the way the idea came together.
“It felt like a mission started from our church but then it went viral,” Lawson said.
Before the trailer left for New Jersey, Haer said members from the church formed a circle around the trailer and prayed to send it forward and forward it went.
“I never heard one complaint about those supplies going to places other than Mason County,” Haer said. “People gave what they could. It really touched you.”