calendar November 2, 2012 in Communications, Disaster Response

Bucks Lutherans Cook Up a Storm for Hurricane Shelter


Despite being without power since Monday night, St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Ferndale, Bucks County has been cooking up a storm. Pastor Bill Rex and a crew of volunteers have been cooking hot dinners each evening for upwards of 225 people at an emergency Red Cross shelter established at the nearby Palisades High School.

“We’ve been cooking for more than 200 people with two gas stoves, sometimes by flashlight,” Pastor Rex reports. The congregation’s small kitchen has kept operating with a Red Cross supplied generator to power the ovens but light, and space, are limited. “People at the shelter ask me why we do this,” Rex says. “I just say that Jesus tells us to.”

Lights finally came back on at St. Luke’s on Sunday afternoon.

Bishop Claire Burkat visited St. Luke’s and the Palisades shelter Sunday after preaching at a 200th Anniversary Service at nearby Evangelical, Durham.

“I was impressed by the way the community came together to support one another in this time,” Burkat said. Several churches and community groups together fed meals to more than 900 people who stopped at the shelter each day. Linda Frey, LDR volunteer coordinator for SEPA, worked the overnight shift at Palisades each night. The bishop described meeting Georgia-based soliders from the Army Corps of Engineers who were deployed to Bucks County on their way to New Jersey; one of the soldiers had been married just the previous Saturday.

“I met ordinary people, who a week ago probably didn’t think they’d ever need a shelter,” the bishop said. “Yet here they were, and many were blessed by the experience. I saw the kindness of strangers move and start to build real friendships.”

Pastor Bill Rex, Sarah Chadwick and Justin Chadwick in the dark kitchen at St. Luke, Ferndale.

Pastor Bill Rex, Sarah Chadwick and Justin Chadwick in the dark kitchen at St. Luke, Ferndale.


Bishop Burkat (center) and Pastor Dave Deal (second from left) meet with shelter workers, including LDR’s Linda Frey (second from right).


At Durham, congregants sang a hymn in the cold cemetery before moving into the candlelit sanctuary for an All Saints prayer service, minimally heated thanks to a donated generator.

“Today on All Saints day, as we worship in this 200 year congregation, we honor all the saints who have died in Christ, and we continue to honor the living saints, in our ministry of love and service to one another in good times and when disaster strikes, as our Lord Jesus taught us,” the bishop said in her sermon.

At the service, the congregation presented the bishop with an “anniversary gift” of $2012.

Lutheran Disaster Response-Eastern PA is helping to order food supplies for dinners over this weekend, at a cost of about $1,600, according to the Rev. Jennifer Ollikainen, director of ministries for Lutheran Congregational Services in Allentown, the local LDR affiliate. Donations to help with this endeavor can be directed to Lutheran Congregational Services, 1923 Hanover Ave., Allentown, PA 18109, with “LDR-EPA” in the memo line.

sandy4Bucks County was particularly hard hit by winds from Hurricane Sandy, with more than 200,000 customers without power immediately after the storm. Neighboring Montgomery, Lehigh and Northampton counties were also blasted. Bucks County’s northeastern corner, where Ferndale is located, features rolling hills leading to the palisades above the Delaware River — and lots of wooded areas. Local residents report that groves of trees are flattened and long series of utility poles are down.

Some residents have been told that power may be out for as long as two or three weeks. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett visited the site Thursday and advised residents to “be patient” because of the danger working with downed power lines tangled with trees.

One of those patient residents is Pastor Rex, who says that with the ongoing kitchen duty at the church he has yet to do a full damage assessment at his home, which was still without power Friday afternoon.

A few dozen people sleep at the high school each night, but more than 900 people each day stop by for a shower, a meal, or to receive water. In this community most residents get their water from wells, which cannot be pumped without power. More than 400 crates of water were shipped to the center by Philabundance, a food bank in Philadelphia, via a connection made by Julia Menzo, Lutheran Disaster Response-Eastern PA coordinator for Southeastern Pennsylvania.


LDR’s Julia Menzo and Pastor Dave Deal at the Palisades Shelter.


One of the visitors to the shelter today was Pastor Dave Deal of Evangelical Lutheran Church of nearby Durham. Deal stopped by for a shower on his way out for a day of checking on elderly and vulnerable members of the congregation.

The Red Cross has started to close some of its other Southeastern PA Shelters and route people to Palisades, Ollikainen said. Its uncertain how long St. Luke’s volunteers, aided by members of the Palisades Youth Crew, will keep cooking meals and transporting them to the shelter. But forecasters and disaster planners are already starting to look at another Nor’easter that may affect the region next week.


Lutheran Congregational Services is an affiliate of Liberty Lutheran Services,