Scott Solimine, lead pastor at South Nassau Christian Church in Baldwin Harbor, had only been in his job for five weeks when Sandy hit. He had just wrapped up his first series of sermons, after spending two years working with teens in the community, when the lives of many around him were suddenly turned upside down by powerful winds and flooding.
The affable Solimine, who is from Hauppauge but who lived in Pennsylvania, Indiana and Korea before returning to Long Island, was not one to stand idly by while those around him suffered. Acting quickly, the 28-year-old, whose wife, Valerie, is six months pregnant with the couple’s first child, devised a program he called Grace in Sandy. Speaking at the Baldwin Civic Association’s general membership meeting last week, Solimine described the program as an altruistic, no-strings effort to bring aid to people in need.
“We’re not Extreme Home Makeovers,” Solimine said, referring to the television show on which miraculous home renovations are provided to struggling families. “But we can help.”
The Grace in Sandy program was created the day after the storm. For the first few weeks, a group of volunteers helped in any ways they could. According to Solimine, they were pulling wet furniture out of homes, cutting carpet, doing demolitions, hanging drywall and providing everything from food and hot showers to gift cards to shoulders to cry on.
Solimine said that the program is working with more than 20 families in Baldwin and the surrounding areas, and has
welcomed teams of volunteers from Connecticut, Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia and North Carolina. He has also lined up volunteers from Florida and California, he said, and he is hoping to spread the word about the resources he has available.