Coming Home: Paying It Forward

Karen Bostwick never envisioned herself cooking for hundreds of hungry people. Hurricane Sandy changed all that.

Bay Head Home
The Bostwicks in their new family room surrounded by containers to unpack.
Photo by Laura Moss.

Three days after the storm, Bostwick’s husband, Scott, pastor of St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Bay Head, hooked a generator up at the church and began serving coffee and charging cell phones for displaced neighbors. The next day, a parishioner came with hot dogs. Within a week, the impromptu soup kitchen became the Bay Head Bistro. Hundreds gathered to eat and commiserate. “This place stopped being a feeding place,” Karen says. “It became a fellowship place—one giant therapy session.” Volunteers soon took over. “An RV from Vermont showed up Thanksgiving weekend,” says Scott. “They set up outside and just cooked for four days.”

The first-floor of the Bostwicks’ home, the church parsonage, had been destroyed. While they worked at the church, parishioners and friends found a rental for them and sons Jason, 6, and Ryan, 4. “Angels set it up for us,” says Karen. “We walked in and there was food in the refrigerator, our bed was made. They even put Toy Story comforters on the boys’ beds.”

Scott viewed the storm’s destruction as a chance to rebuild the cramped two-story parsonage. “I can’t draw a straight line,” jokes Scott, “but I came up with a plan to open up the walls.” The Bostwicks eventually hired a builder, but New Jersey volunteers got them started, removing the home’s saturated walls and ruined appliances. The generosity continued with volunteers from Ohio, who installed sheet rock.

On April 9, the Bostwicks moved back home, celebrating with take-out Chinese food and a movie. Using Scott’s concept, the washer and dryer was moved from the kitchen into its own space—Karen’s favorite new feature—and the living room was transformed into a playroom.

Meanwhile, the Bay Head Bistro continues to serve some 50 to 100 meals a day—breakfast and dinner. The food is donated and cooked by volunteers. “Not everybody is back home,” says Scott. “People are living on their second floors without a kitchen. We’ll stay open as long as we’re needed.”

Resources:
Builder: Garrigan Construction, Point Pleasant Beach, 732-714-8559; Doug Bostwick Painting and Construction, Oakhurst, 732-571-9779
Appliances: Top Line Appliance Center, Wall Township, 732-223-2253; and the Home Depot

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