Bayville, NJ

The Morning Star Presbyterian Church of Bayville, New Jersey, and one of its members are being recognized for recovery work surrounding Hurricane Sandy, the deadly storm that affected 24 states in 2012. Exelon Corporation, an energy company headquartered in Chicago, is giving the church a $5,000 Merit Award on behalf of one of its employees, who is also a Morning Star member. 

Tom Powell and his wife Priscilla were charter members of the team that organized the Hurricane Sandy Volunteer Village at Morning Star following the storm. He also worked on grant applications as well as the bidding and hiring to construct living quarters for volunteers coming to the church. He is among 18 Exelon employees in the US being recognized for outstanding community service. 

“Tom is a multitalented individual. He likes to build stuff and is very mechanical and a good thinker. He worked to install showers, washers, dryers, and partitions for the village,” says Rev. Dr. Myrlene Hamilton Hess, pastor. “Tom has been volunteering with the church for more than 20 years and is one of our elders. He finds the work he does very rewarding and receives joy in giving back to those in the area who are in need.” 

Since its opening two years ago, the village, which can accommodate up to 30 people at a time, has hosted more than 900 workers from 17 states, who have contributed 50,000 hours of volunteer labor. 

“Last year was our biggest year in volunteer numbers, but we are beginning to see a drop-off this year,” Hamilton Hess says. “There is still a lot of work to be done, but the emphasis is off of New Jersey. There are new storms and new disasters, but we would love to see more workers come.” 

In addition to providing housing for volunteer workers, the church networked with a number of organizations to find projects for the teams. 

“Based on an estimated value of $28 per volunteer hour, workers have provided $1.4 million worth of labor,” adds Hess. “Morning Star volunteers have worked in Ocean, Monmouth, and Atlantic Counties.” 

Sandy is recognized by the National Hurricane Center as the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 season, leaving at least 233 people dead, and more than $68 billion in damage. New Jersey and New York received the most damage in the US. 

Teams are dispatched to the Volunteer Village through the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Call Center. PDA’s relief efforts are funded through One Great Hour of Sharing, grants from other organizations, and individual donations. 

The church and Powell will be honored at an awards ceremony in Philadelphia on June 8.