Volunteer Rev. Dr. Robert Foltz Morrison

Executive Presbyter, Presbytery of New York City

Interview conducted by Christian Huisman

Advent9Q. Where were you when Hurricane Sandy hit?
A. I was in upstate New York. I wasn’t sure if we were going to get any part of Sandy because the previous year upstate New York, where I was working at the time, had experienced Hurricane Irene. We never expected a hurricane to be that far upstate.

Q. What called you to be a part of the rebuild effort?
A. I have been called to respond to different disasters at different times in my life. One Christmas Eve when I was living in Panama, there was an earthquake in Nicaragua. We scrapped our plans and gathered at the Red Cross Office to sort food and clothes. The next day, on Christmas day, we went down to the dock to help load the food and clothes onto a ship to make sure it got to Nicaragua. So, helping with disasters, and responding in a timely manner, was just impressed upon me at a very early age.

Q. What benefits have you found in volunteering?
A. It helps me better understand the idea of living in community. When people come from far away to help in the rebuild effort, even if it isn’t going to directly help their home or their life, it’s just really a great example of loving our neighbor as ourselves, of being community.

Q. What would you say to someone who has yet to volunteer in the Sandy rebuild process?
A. Just do it. If you have volunteered before, invite people you know to come along with you. We get to be bridges for people, since we know where the sites are and what kind of work goes into disaster relief. That ties into the community aspect as well. It can be far less intimidating—or whatever other reason someone has for not volunteering yet—when someone you know is asking you to come with them.

Q. Any other thoughts?
A. Again, just do it. You can make a community out of people and go and volunteer together. You could work on a specific house together and be with that house as it progresses and at the end you would get to say, “we did it.”