Volunteers roll in from across the country to do ‘God’s work’

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Samaritans Purse program manager Tony McNeil is working out of Linwood Community Church sending volunteers into every community in Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties that have been affected by Sandy. Two other trucks are in central and northern New Jersey to help victims there. Samaritans Purse program manager Tony McNeil is working out of Linwood Community Church sending volunteers into every community in Atlantic, Cape May and Cumberland counties that have been affected by Sandy. Two other trucks are in central and northern New Jersey to help victims there.

LINWOOD – While Hurricane Sandy was about the worst disaster Mother Nature has thrown New Jersey in a while, it seems to have brought out the best in people.

After the storm slammed into the coast, a network of volunteers with Samaritans Purse out of North Carolina sprung into action, and in just a few days they rolled into Linwood in a 53-foot tractor trailer outfitted to handle whatever obstacle might be ahead. Under the direction of program manager Tony McNeil, they set up a home base at Linwood Community Church, converting the Sunday school rooms into temporary housing quarters.


Samaritans Purse is an international organization that is part of the Billy Graham Ministries. It is completely donor-funded, and no homeowner is asked to pay a penny for any work that the volunteers may do.

“We are here to help the folks impacted by the storm. They need to know, don’t despair; God loves them and we are here to do God’s work,” said McNeil, who hails from North Carolina.
Save McNeil and one administrative worker, the entire crew is made up of volunteers who put their lives on hold to put their time and talent to work helping those who have been battered by Sandy. Some will come for a few days, and others a few weeks. How long they stay is up to them.

Mary Lee drove with 14 other volunteers in three vans from Wisconsin to Linwood last week. She heads the volunteer outreach at her home church. She said they came when notified that Samaritans Purse was heading to New Jersey to help after the storm.

“We first worked with Samaritans Purse after Katrina and then Ike. We have been to Joplin, Missouri, and will return there to help build homes next month. We are able to help, and everyone here is good people who just do what God asks of all of us, to help their neighbor.”

While the work is hard, the reward of helping a family get through a crisis is all the volunteers ask for.

The volunteers are put into groups, and using their individual skill sets, they get the job done, whether it is cutting down trees with a chain saw, pulling insulation from under a house, or trimming away wet sheetrock.

McNeil said some of the volunteers bring equipment, but for those who bring only their work ethic and the desire to help folks recovering from a disaster, the tools needed are supplied by the Samaritans Purse truck. McNeil gave a tour of the truck, which might best be described as the ultimate man cave. Created by the same folks who build NASCAR trailers, the truck has a place for everything and everything in its place: water pumps, chainsaws, generators and all the parts to fix them are in the truck.

“We are pretty much self-sufficient for about two weeks before we have to go back and restock,” said McNeil. “We respond to disasters, and each one teaches us a great deal so we are prepared no matter what our volunteers need to do to help get folks back on their feet.”

The volunteers are here to work, he said.

“We do the gut-outs, mud-outs, tree cutting, and we will put a tarp on the roof to keep the water from coming in, but what we don’t do is take any money out of the community.”

Volunteers take calls from property owners requesting help, asking a few questions and then determining whether to send a crew out.

They help homeowners who have no insurance or who are underinsured, the elderly and military personnel.

“We will tear everything out so that if a homeowner has a $5,000 deductable before the insurance pays, then we will do that amount of work; our crews will tear everything out and have the home ready for the contractor to come in and get started,” McNeil said. “And the work we do is free. You can’t pay for our work; it’s Gods work, and Jesus paid for it on the cross.” 

The network of volunteers makes it possible to make a difference right away.

“We put 60 volunteers out today and we will put about 150 out on Saturday in Ocean City, Atlantic City, Pleasantville and Egg Harbor Township,” he said Friday, Nov. 9. “That is a lot of boots hitting the ground working.”

He said the volunteers will work out of Linwood until they are deployed elsewhere or head back home.

“We will go where we are needed, and we will do God’s work and help people get their homes and their lives back in order,” McNeil said.

To learn more about Samaritans Purse or to make a donation see www.samaritanspurse.org


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