Food, water and shelter remain a priority for victims of Hurricane Sandy. Fortunately, Faith Church, a sprawling megachurch in New Milford will offer in abundance all three and a lot more for Staten Island residents displaced by the storm.
By Dec. 23, a 4-acre parcel on the north side of the church’s 40-acre campus along Route 7 will be transformed into a small community of 25 donated trailers. The 82,000-square-foot church will not only provide much needed shelter for displaced families and the elderly for one year, but also groceries, a home cooked meal on Sundays, enrollment in the church’s private academy, use of the church’s gym and Sunday movie nights.
“I feel like God is guiding us through this whole mission,” said New Fairfield First Selectman John Hodge.
A week or so ago, Hodge mentioned to Faith Church’s pastor, Frank Santora, that the Staten Island-based Stephen Siller Tunnel for Towers Foundation charity was looking for space to house trailers it was purchasing for Hurricane Sandy victims.
Santora immediately offered up the church land.
“I just saw it as a way to make a difference, to live out the golden rule,” said Santora, whose church has been running relief efforts and marshalling volunteers to gut and rebuild homes on hard-hit Staten Island ever since the storm hit.
Santora, who was raised in Staten Island, said the trailers will be a temporary refuge while Staten Islanders figure out their next move and begin the process of cleaning and rebuilding their homes.
“My roots are there. I have family members whose homes were damaged. I wanted to help,” said Santora, whose church also runs a minstiry in Times Square.
The turn-key 14 feet wide and 48 feet long trailers will be purchased by the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which is named after Stephen Siller, Hodge's cousin, a New York City firefighter who died during Sept. 11, 2011. Hodge serves as the director of operation for the charity.
Hodge, who attends Faith Church, said ever since Santora offered up the land, he's seen "God's hand" work to make sure the project gets done. Connecticut Light & Power has donated the infrastructure to power electricty to the trailers and Hillside Food Outreach, based in Pleasantville, N.Y. will provide weekly boxes of groceries for displaced residents. One business has offered to prepare resumes for storm victims for free, Hodge said..
“We want to do whatever we can to make their lives easier until their homes are rebuilt,” Hodge said.