The week of Jan. 4–8, eight members of the Dominican Young Adults Chapter at Molloy College came together to participate in a service project on Long Island, New York, to help repair damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. This year’s build was a three-way collaboration among United Baptist Disaster Relief Services, United Methodist Disaster Relief Services, and Dominican Young Adults. Two associates from the Dominican Sisters of Amityville also participated, along with two others from the local community.
The week began with arrival on Sunday evening, settling into bedrooms, a short tour of the house, dinner, and an overview of the plan for the week. This was followed by an opening prayer service.
Much to their dismay, the students had to rise each morning (sometimes with some prompting) at 7:15 a.m., prepare their breakfast, make their lunch (which they needed to bring to the site each day), and be ready to leave by 8:15 a.m. Quite a challenge for young people who were on break… but they were real troopers and were ready to go.
Usually because of the number of participants, we would have to break up into two groups, but not so this time. We all had the opportunity to work and experience everything together. At the sites, the students had the opportunity to engage in all types of work.
Our initial task was to build a floor in one of the basements in Long Beach that had been wiped out by the storm. All that remained of the basement were the two by fours and about three feet of beach sand. I must admit, we were a little taken back when we entered and realized our project. But with the help of an experienced carpenter who worked alongside us, the floor was laid in two days. There was a lot of measuring, cutting, hammering, and nail driving that had to be done in a very confined area, but we felt very good when the floor was done.
We worked at four other sites during the week. The students had a variety of odd jobs which included cleaning , mudding, sanding, and priming the bare walls. There was much to do, but we were determined to do what was necessary to speed up the resettling of the families that once lived in these homes. The young people working alongside those of us who are a bit older hit it off right away, and the work, though exhausting at times, was done in a wonderful spirit of laughter and fun.
At each work site, we had the opportunity to meet the people who owned the home we were working on. With tears in their eyes, they spoke of their gratitude to these young volunteers. Before we left any of the sites, we promised that we would pray for the residents of each home and ask God to help make their dream of finally “coming home” a reality.
To make the service project more meaningful and to have opportunity to reflect on our daily experiences, the Amityville Dominican Sisters’ Dominican House of Hospitality housed all of the volunteers for the entire week. Each evening, the core community of the house, along with the Dominican associates, had dinner on the table ready for us when we returned home. We are truly indebted to their generous spirit of hospitality and service. On one of the evenings, we had pizza and prayer with the sisters at St. Ignatius Convent. The sisters were so gracious to our young people and very interested in their experiences thus far. Another great experience for these young Dominicans of Dominican hospitality and “Family.”
After dinner, the young people gathered to pray and speak about their day. What or who touched them, and where might they have encountered God in their experience. As you might guess, the prayer and reflection were powerful each night.
This entire experience was a true expression of what we mean by “Dominican Family.” Different parts of the family (vowed religious, associates, and Dominican Young Adults) all worked together to make this week a positive experience for all. No one of us did it all, but all of us did our part.
Soon it was time to say goodbye. It was a good feeling knowing that we left the houses in much better shape than they were in when we arrived. It was also a good feeling knowing that each of us in our own small way assisted in “Continuing the Preaching ” in our own lives and the lives of those we met in Long Beach, Massapequa, Bayshore, Valley Stream, and North Woodmere.