Grace under pressure

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“My first series of sermons as lead pastor was basically five weeks of exploring the church’s mission statement,” said Solimine, who has served as a teacher’s aid at the Steele School and who is a substitute teacher throughout the Baldwin school district. “We spent five weeks discussing who we are, what we were about. I was calling for the church to serve and touch the community. I spent five weeks saying that, then, two days after my last sermon, Sandy came through and it was like, OK, now it’s time to do it.”

As Solimine spoke on Dec. 7, he stood in the hollowed-out shell of his nondenominational church on Eastern Parkway. Although the bulk of his post-storm efforts have focused on others, the SNCC itself was badly hit. The small wooden building, which serves about 75 worshippers each Sunday, was flooded when the hurricane blew through. The floors, tiles, stage, piano and all the furniture were ruined. Solimine said he even found water in his top desk drawer.

But even as a half dozen industrial fans and dehumidifiers blew and sucked air through the waterlogged bones of his church, Solimine talked about helping others. “Grace in Sandy is about pure grace,” he said. “We want to help in whatever ways are possible. We’re looking for physical help, skilled workers, cash, gift cards, help in printing brochures … We’ve also been taking small donations. People can go online and endow a single piece of sheetrock or a bucket of spackle.”

One other thing Solimine is looking for is people in need of help. Valerie Solimine, who met her husband in a high school prayer group and who is intimately involved in church operations, told the Herald that more than 100 churches from across the country have called, offering aid. The Solimines say they have more resources than they can currently allocate, and are seeking new families that are struggling.

Those who would like to help can find more information at, under the Grace in Sandy banner. The SNCC can be reached at (516) 379-0720 or through

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