In Bowie, support builds for Hurricane Sandy relief

November 14, 2012

After Hurricane Sandy blew through the northeastern United States, leaving as much as $20 billion in damage, communities on the East Coast have been working to clean up the damage, and one Bowie resident is leading a charge to aid some of his neighbors.

As a member of the emergency response teams at both St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church in Bowie and the United Methodist Committee on Relief, Bowie resident Dan Blades is trying to raise money for himself and a seven-person team he is leading to go to Crisfield — a town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore hit hard by the storm.

The town was inundated as Sandy brought huge tidal waves into the city, said Ed McDonough, a spokesman for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency.

“We’re talking about, when all is said and done, hundreds of buildings on the lower Eastern Shore that are going to need some sort of repair,” McDonough said.

To Blades, who retired from working with the Social Security Administration after more than 30 years of federal service, the mission is personal. While Crisfield bills itself as the crab capital of the world, to Blades the city is something else — his hometown.

“I’m sorry to see they’re in dire shape, but I’m happy to be in a position to be able to go back and give back,” he said. “It’s part of our Christian ethic to give to our neighbors, no matter where they are.”

Volunteers and donations, which are being solicited from the church and the region, will help clean up muck and debris from homes, put up tarps over exposed areas in homes and work to help make as many homes habitable as possible, said Blades, who said he was planning to leave Tuesday and return Saturday.

Nationwide, the storm is the third-costliest weather event behind hurricanes Katrina and Andrew, according to the Insurance Information Institute, an industry research group.

Money to support those affected by the storm are flowing from a variety of sources locally.

The Bowie City Council unanimously voted Nov. 5 to donate $5,000 to the Red Cross to aid those affected by the storm. The money will come from the city’s general fund, said David Deutsch, Bowie city manager.

The $5,000 donation is the first by the city in response to a major disaster since Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, Deutsch said. Mayor Pro Tem Diane Polangin proposed the donation.

“This is so unbelievably tragic for the whole Eastern Seaboard,” she said. “Thank God we’re not in the shape of some of our neighbors.”

St. Pius X Catholic Church in Bowie plans to hold four Masses Nov. 17-18, in which donations will be pooled to help those affected by the storm. The effort follows a similar push that raised about $8,000 after the devastating tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011, said the Rev. Michael Jones, leader of the church.

“I suspect this one will be larger just because of how local it is,” he said. “We see it as part of the command of being a follower of Christ.”

The American Legion in Maryland, led by Bowie resident J.D. Larson, is launching a drive to get members across the state to donate an additional $60,000 to the legion’s national emergency relief fund. The money would help people with emergency needs and is available to any legion member, Larson said.

“If there’s a legionnaire who’s lost his roof, he might need some bucks to help put it back on,” said Larson, a retired Coast Guardsman.

While the organization regularly encourages members to give to the relief fund, the push to give $60,000 formally will be pushed to members of the state’s executive board at the Nov. 18 meeting at Post 168 in Thurmont, Larson said.

“Fundraising efforts are always ongoing, but this will be a special push,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll have it by May.”

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