two people standing by four rows of hats hanging on wall

Team members from Otisco Presbyterian Church, New York, hang their team's hat on the wall — Photo by Rev. Dr. Myrlene Hamilton Hess

This October 29, 2014 will be two years since Super Storm Sandy hit the East Coast. The damage and devastation this storm caused was like no other before her. Many of our friends and neighbors lost everything, so many are still homeless in the aftermath. The members of Morning Star Presbyterian Church in Bayville were at a loss, what could we do to help? For a great many in our congregation it was just an inconvenience, for others nearly two years later they would still be living in a nightmare. When Presbyterian Disaster Assistance asked Morning Star if we would be interested in becoming a VolunteerVillage we jumped at the chance. It was an opportunity to help.

With so much to do to get our village up and running a planning team met weekly. During one of our weekly meetings we discussed the need for us to document a history of the village. Also, we all agreed that we wanted to give something to the villagers. After much discussion the idea of a painters cap was born.  These volunteers would be working indoors and outdoors. A painter’s hat would be useful and could serve as a memento of their time with us.  More brainstorming and we decided the cap should have Morning Star’s insignia, just a little personal touch.

More discussion led us to the idea that we could ask each group to personalize a hat. The hat could be decorated any way they wanted. It would serve as a visual history of the groups who have brought HOPE to the people who were affected by Sandy.

We started a wall in the entry hall of our church. Each hat reminds us of those volunteers who have come to New Jersey, stayed in our little church and “Out of Chaos brought Hope”.

The first team had it the hardest.  Yet they seemed to know how important this was to us and their hat is beautiful. In fact, each and every hat we have received thus far is amazing! I can’t believe how it makes me feel to look at our wall of hats. Each hat represents more then just a moment in time, you can see a little bit of each and every person who stayed at our church.  The hats tell us who they were, where they came from and expresses their faith in Jesus Christ.

It’s funny but when a group comes they check out the hats on the wall, we get lots of questions about them. When they finish their hat they want to see it hung. They want to be a part of the wall.

The wall affects many of us in different ways. We have one homeowner who has been attending our church since her home was completed by the volunteers. While I am sure she doesn’t think anyone notices she stops at the hat wall, and places her hand on the hat of the group that finished her house. For others it is the knowledge of the sheer volume of volunteers who have come to Morning Star.

The wall is nearly full; our team has decided to pay it forward, when a home owner is finally able to be back in their home we will give them one hat from the wall. The hat will be from one of the groups who helped them return home.  Recently, we were blessed to be able to give a home owner a hat from the wall. The hat was presented at their house blessing! 


Written by Janis McGowan, part of the Presbyterian Volunteer Village hosting team at Morning Star Presbyterian Church, Bayville, New Jersey


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