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Sandy victims find inspiration in Easter

Conrad Marrone, left, Peggy Racine, and Reverand Wells,

Conrad Marrone, left, Peggy Racine, and Reverand Wells, right, visit the Seaford home of Marrone, where reconstruction efforts progress with the help of the Community United Methodist Church in Massapequa. (March 28, 2013) Credit: Johnny Milano

Angela Morgan's house in Lindenhurst was flooded with 4 feet of water during superstorm Sandy, and she was overwhelmed with the prospect of repairing it.

Then volunteers from a local church showed up.

Today, as hundreds of thousands of Christian faithful on Long Island mark one of the holiest days of the year, Morgan says she can find new meaning in the Easter story of Jesus Christ's crucifixion and resurrection.

While the storm seemed to bring some of her grimmest days, the Easter story of Jesus rising from the dead is giving her hope. "If Jesus could die for us for our sins, I can get through this," said Morgan, 65, who has lived in her home for more than four decades. "Compared to what Jesus Christ went through, it's nothing in comparison."

Across Long Island, thousands of people like Morgan are still trying to put back together not just their homes but their lives. But according to clergy members, Easter is helping to give the beleaguered homeowners a sense that there is some light at the end of the road.

"I think people are definitely experiencing a resurrection from the destruction of the storm," said the Rev. Jeff Wells of Community United Methodist Church in Massapequa.

His church has been operating a volunteer disaster relief center that has sent 1,200 volunteers into storm-damaged communities on the South Shore, including Lindenhurst, Amityville, Copiague, Massapequa, Seaford, Wantagh and Bellmore.

The volunteers have come not just from Long Island but states including Connecticut, Massachusetts, South Carolina and even California. They have assisted about 200 homeowners including Morgan, putting in a total of 7,300 hours of work.

United Methodist churches in Freeport and Rockville Centre have been running similar disaster relief centers, reaching even more homes, Wells said.

The turnout of volunteers has been "remarkable," said Peggy Racine, who oversees the volunteer center in Massapequa. The volunteers "have brought hope and hopefully God's love into their [storm victims] lives and changed their feelings and attitudes."

The volunteers also included college students from institutions such as Clemson University, Hofstra University, Adelphi University and Dowling College, which sent its entire lacrosse team -- twice.

Pastor Louise Stowe-Johns of First United Methodist Church in Amityville said she also thinks Easter is giving storm victims a sense of hope.

After such natural disasters "the outlook can be very grim and it can be very traumatic and difficult," she said. "We don't want those [tragedies] but we sometimes do find God in the midst of them."

Morgan said her home still needs a lot of work. Volunteers tore out the damaged floors and walls, and now they must be replaced. But she feels some hope -- largely because of the church volunteers. "They're a fantastic group," she said. "They were almost like angels."

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