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Church renowned for hurricane relief work hosts people’s recovery summit this weekend

Fr. Michael Sniffen, delivering the opening invocation at the Borough President's Clergy Breakfast in December. Eagle File Photo

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

The Church of St. Luke & St. Matthew, which gained national renowned for its Hurricane Sandy Recovery work, is hosting the People’s Recovery Summit this weekend.

The 3-Day Summit features five themes that thread themselves through the weekend in panels, workshops, and keynote and breakout sessions, according to the summit’s website. These themes are: education, environment, economic, organizing and wellness.

The Summit begins today with a community breakfast and an opening ceremony followed by interactive, facilitated workshops.

Saturday’s workshops and talks further develop along these themes, and delve deeper into the important community organizing work already underway.

Sunday concludes the workshops and features report-backs from thematic workgroups as well as the drafting of the Sandy Pledge for elected officials committed to equitable and sustainable rebuilding.
The 11 a.m. Eucharist on Sunday will incorporate the theme of “People’s Recovery.”

St. Luke & St. Matthew Church is an Episcopal parish whose clergy and membership promptly assessed a need to help one of the Occupy Sandy hubs that had exceeded its space capacity. Fr. Michael Sniffen, St. Luke & St. Matthew Church’s energetic rector, and a group of volunteers immediately got word out through social media that they were joining the Occupy Sandy recovery effort.

“That’s where Facebook flamed the publicity…Word went out to people from faith communities, the neighborhoods, people with community organizing and neighbors helping neighbors. “So we started that and, within about 12 hours, we had hundreds of people coming through the doors to be trained. We had donations coming in from all over the neighborhood—people coming in with shopping carts and shopping bags full of donations.”

He added, “Within a few days after that, a volunteer had the idea to develop the Amazon registry—where people could just, wherever they were, anywhere in the world, could find what it was that people needed in the wake of the storm, they could purchase it, and it would be delivered to this church.

“So, the social networking piece was very important. Since then, we’ve received more than $2 million worth of donations through the registry; and then a countless number of donations from individuals walking in. And we have also received corporate donations.”

Fr. Sniffen, speaking to the Brooklyn Eagle before the Summit’s opening, believes there are several reasons for this success: “There was really no bureaucracy; we were just able to do the work. And we used our network of Episcopal churches to further support that effort. So we had recovery happening out of Ascension Church in Greenpoint, and St. John’s Church in Fort Hamilton—which now the permanent Occupy Sandy kitchen. We had been over 5,000 hot meals a day out of our kitchen here—which is very small. But at St. John’s, they have a big, beautiful kitchen.

Others are lauding St. Luke & St. Matthew Church as a successful model of grassroots disaster recovery work. However, Fr. Sniffen believes that their work is far from over, and is committed to bringing people from the various branches of the recovery effort together to discuss what needs still need to be met in the community. These encompass not just needs that the hurricane created but also issues that are far-reaching such as the economy, housing and jobs, and empowering citizens to improve society.

The summit begins with a community breakfast, and proceeds with theme workshops. Each day of the summit, through Sunday, Feb. 3, will start at 9 a.m. and run through the evening, with entertainment starting at 8 p.m. Some of the topics include: “Know Your Rights Training - Insurance and FEMA Claims and Tenant Rights: Harm Reduction, Emergency Coaching Response; Organizing. Others focus on Cooperative Small Business; Environmental Sustainability; Life Coaching; Grassroots Mobilization and Community Organizing; Health and Safety Rights for Workers. A closing assembly will hear and approve the People’s Recovery Statement.

Registration for the event is free and is available at the door. The Church of St. Luke & St. Matthew is at 520 Clinton Ave., between Fulton & Atlantic Avenues, in Clinton Hill.

February 1, 2013 - 12:00pm


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