It will a very long time before the East Coast recovers from all of the damage done by Superstorm Sandy, but the situation is slowly improving in northern New Jersey where Peggy Wolfe is serving as a volunteer with the American Red Cross.
Wolfe, a registered nurse from Worthington, is on a two-week deployment in a health services clinic in a Red Cross shelter in Hapatcong, New Jersey. She's been keeping in touch with the folks back home with updates posted in the Greene County Daily World.
After days without internet access, Wolfe was able to send this update via email on Friday:
"Just got back online after spending another night on duty at the shelter. We are actually likely to close on Sunday, but nothing is definite as of yet. Many aren't ready to go home, as some still have trees on their houses, and live alone without nearby relatives. Power should be restored by then, but that does not guarantee safety of all homes. Some people's spirits remain uplifted as they see and feel the progress, while others still are in shock, over a week later.
"It has been amazing to see the outpouring of support and donations by the community in general. The needs have been posted on Facebook, and we got what we needed: hygiene products, food, pillows, sheets and towels, and tons of blankets.
"The temperature is supposed to be in the 50's-60's over the next few days, and much more work should get done.
"I have been so impressed with this community of about 15,000. There has been a community effort, they refer to CERT, Community Emergency Response Team, who have rallied to help out in this shelter, and possibly others, who also lost power to their homes, and are shelter residents at the same time. They staff us with helpers from 0800-1200, and have been incredible.
"I had to phone the police to find out where the little voter lived, and if they had any contact info on her, and they did. They send out a mailing to all residents, particularly the elderly, for them to return the mailing with contact information in case of an emergency. The little lady who walked to the polls had taken ill and we needed to contact her nearest relative. The police did have that contact info, and we are still working on getting in touch. If Greene County has that kind of a program, kudos to them, but if not, perhaps it is a valuable tool.
"We should all not take for granted that we are in a safe place, and that all our needs are or will be provided. Thinking outside the box is an advantage.
"I plan on starting my journey home in the next few days, and with shelters closing, there may be a large outflux. So, thanks for all your support, prayers and interest; it has meant a lot and I am sure that I have remained safe because of it all. Peg"
On Sunday evening, Wolfe sent another email with this even more encouraging update:
"What a difference a couple of days make!
"The snow we got was melted by the afternoon after.
"A lot of power has been restored in the area and we are starting the 'consolidation' processing, and downsizing.
"FEMA has been at the shelter as of Friday, and social services are hooking clients up with necessary services toward recovery.
"Spirits are higher in the shelter as well as the outside temperatures. Every one survived this at our shelter. Now to just get back to normal.
"I will likely be leaving here soon, as the health services aspects are less needed. Now for Habitat, Southern Baptist, or whoever comes in, to help rebuild.
"It has been a very heartwarming experience to be here. Peg."
Her prediction was correct. On Monday afternoon, she sent a quick message that she was getting ready to leave New Jersey and head back home to Indiana.
"I'll be home tonight!" she wrote.