Volunteers have traveled from throughout the country to connect with the Village Lutheran Church in Forked River to assist locals with free tree services after superstorm Sandy.
“The Lutheran Church is well known for disaster response. They’re very much first responders,” said Tracey Stillman, wife of Pastor Mark Stillman at the Village Lutheran Church.
When Sandy hit the region, the church called the disaster center of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and hooked up with Ed Brashier of Gardendale, Ala., a retired lineman and director of Shepherd’s Heart Disaster Response Ministry.
The ministry has the purpose of: “Showing the love of Jesus after natural disasters by offering free tree and debris removal to the uninsured, under insured and low income families.”
Since he arrived more than three weeks ago, the church has received thousands of calls for tree services, Stillman said.
The church is reaching out to a variety of people but mostly those who are in need such as seniors, the physically disabled and single parents.
Although the church has received calls from as far as New York and Virginia, the free tree service is being offered to the following counties: Monmouth, Ocean, Mercer, Burlington and Atlantic.
“We don’t want to do free work for anybody. We’re trying to help people who can’t help themselves,” Brashier said.
For an Oak tree, estimates can range from $1,500 to $15,000, he said.
The church has launched chainsaw training for those interested in volunteering, Stillman said.
Those who call for the service are put on a list and the church calls a day prior to arriving, Brashier said. Service isn’t necessarily immediate since there are so many requests.
Each home has approximately one to five trees that need cutting, he said. The service only does trees that are already down due to the storm or nor’easter.
Jan Gerzevske, 67, of Wheaton, Ill., drove 14 hours to spend six days in Lacey and volunteer for the tree service. The teams bring sleeping bags and air mattresses and sleep in the church. Last week, three more teams came.
“I’ve done this numerous times. I’m part of the Lutheran Early Response Team,” she said. “I put on my hardhat, work gloves, work boots and get all dressed up, go out there and pull branches, take them to street, stack wood for fireplaces and push logs around.”
Gerzevske has been trained through the Missouri Synod to do such work, including how to deal with mold in homes, tarp and patch rooftops, first aid and search and rescue.
She became involved more than 10 years ago when she became a widow, she said.
“I got his entire pension from the company he worked at. I feel since I have this gift really, that it’s my duty to give back and serve the Lord since he’s been so good to me,” she said.
“We wanted to help people that just couldn’t do it themselves,” she said.
Call 609-693-1333 for more information or to request services.