samaritan's purse

Tony McNeil, program manager for the Samaritan’s Purse center in Linwood, says the group mostly helps people without insurance or people who can’t pay for repairs.

Edward Lea

After Sandy left the region, a large group of volunteers from across the country moved in to help local residents with their homes.

Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian organization that provides volunteers to help places affected by natural disasters, has set up camp at Linwood Community Church on Shore Road.

Tony McNeil, program manager for the organization’s center in Linwood, said there are about 150 volunteers from across the country at the local church to help out for an extended period of time. Through Monday, the group had been contacted by 175 residents to do work on their homes and had completed work for 50 of them.

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A total of almost 400 people, including local residents, have volunteered, he said.

The group does not do repairs but works to situate the homes by removing debris and damaged items or covering affected areas with tarp, McNeil said.

The organization mostly helps people without insurance or those who do not have enough to cover the damages from the storm, McNeil said. They also work to help seniors, disabled people and veterans who may not be able to do the work on their own, he said.

The volunteers only do work on residential properties for the actual homeowners. They do not do work for tenants or commercial properties, he said.

Samaritan’s Purse does not charge for its services. McNeil said they do not ask for money as they feel compelled to do their work out of their belief in God.

“We want them to know God loves them, and he hasn’t forgotten about them,” he said.

The volunteers work until about 4 p.m. every day and then come back to the church for prayers, dinner and “share time,” during which they talk about the work they did and what they’ve seen, McNeil said.

Mike Baker, 55, a resident of Santa Fe, N.M., came to the area with his wife, Cindy, to help out. Baker said they plan to be here for about a month.

The retired mechanical engineer said he was involved with the group once before, last summer during a fire in his home state.

“I felt I should give back and help people,” he said. “Once you get with these fine people, these are real Christians.” You get back much more than you give, he said.

The organization has set up other centers in Toms River, Bergen County and New York City, McNeil said.

Ocean City residents John and Harriett Fiore returned from evacuation to find the crawl space on the bottom of their home on 23rd Street was flooded and the insulation needed to be pulled out. A group of volunteers from Samaritan’s Purse knocked on their door Saturday to offer their services.

“It was like a miracle,” Harriett Fiore said. “Who could ask for anything better? It’s great. We didn’t know what to do.”

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Follow Joel Landau on Twitter @landaupressofac

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