Post Sandy: New York's Avenue D Celebrates Recovery

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Sounds of celebration rose to the rooftops on Manhattan's Lower East Side, and it all came from D Street, an area that saw its share of disaster when Hurricane Sandy hit in October.

Sandy was one of the deadliest and most destructive hurricanes to hit the East Coast. Its devastation sent a team called Mercy Chefs to New York City to feed thousands of people in need.

On Saturday, Oct. 27, the chefs and volunteers headed back to the lower east side of the Big Apple for a block party to let those same people know they have not been forgotten.

Jeremy Del Rio, a leader at Abounding Grace Ministries, helped to organize the massive celebration along Avenue D.

"We are sitting right now in the shadow of the power plant that flooded in Manhattan and exploded and caused the blackout in Manhattan," he told CBN News. "This entire residential area that we are serving today was underwater."

Mercy Chefs volunteers served 60,000 meals in the area following the October storm. Many of those volunteers returned to dish up good food at the July block party.

Megan LeBlanc's father, Gary, is the chef who founded Mercy Chefs. Both were excited to be back in New York to reunite with other volunteers and the people they served.

"It's a celebration instead of a heartbreak," Megan said. "Getting to see the people in better spirits and in a better situation is really great."

"Normally when we come with Mercy Chefs it's because something bad has happened," she explained. "Something terrible has happened. And we are offering condolences and trying to help things get better. But now, things are better and we get to share in that celebration with them."

Guy Wasko pastors Trinity Grace Church, one the New York City churches Mercy Chefs partnered with to respond to the storm. Wasko spoke with CBN News during the block party. 

"The important part to me is that they wanted to come back and serve this community," he said.

"They could take their trucks anywhere in the country," he marvelled. "They have enough gas and enough time, they could go anywhere they wanted. But they chose to come back here to help us throw this party to continue to build on what we were able to do last year. That is remarkable to me."

"I hope people were able to relax for a second," Wasko told CBN News. "I think one of the things that come with living on street like Avenue D is you are never quite able to fully escape the reality of the circumstances of your life."

"And so I think having moments like this create that type of environment where can all forget about the pressures or the pain or frustration. We can sit back relax and party, eat a good meal, just enjoy life for a second," he said.

Beyond a moment of relaxation, Mercy Chefs volunteers want residents to know they are not forgotten.

Volunteer Allie Plumlee said, "I hope that they realize this is God through us and that we are serving Him by serving them."

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Efrem Graham is an award-winning journalist, who comes to CBN News from the ABC owned and operated station in Toledo, Ohio.  He received his master's degree from the Columbia University Journalism School. He also holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.  Follow Efrem on Twitter @EfremGraham and "like" him at Facebook.com/EfremGrahamCBN.