Written by Emily Mullins
On Friday May 17, members of United Congregational Church of Westerly UCC in Pawcatuck, Conn., will join hands with more than 3,000 New Englanders stretched down the coastline of Rhode Island's Misquamicut Beach. In this symbolic gesture of solidarity, the group, many wearing "Bring Back the Beach" T-shirts, will formerly reclaim the shore that was decimated by last year's Hurricane Sandy and recognize the hard work that has gone into repairing the beachfront in time for all to enjoy this summer.
"Misquamicut is one of the most famous beaches in Rhode Island, known for its long expanse of beautiful sand," said the Rev. Ruth Shilling Hainsworth, pastor of United Congregational UCC. "We hope this event will bring the positive publicity the community is hoping for in the reopening of the beach."
The Hands Along the Sands event takes place after months of recovery work on Misquamicut Beach. Hurricane Sandy caused an estimated $14 million worth of damage to the area, and thousands of residents and volunteers have been involved in the cleanup and renovation. United Congregational UCC members, friends and relatives, many who have emotional ties to this area where they grew up, are among those who have been volunteering their time, Shilling Hainsworth said. The congregation has been counting their volunteer hours toward the UCC's Mission 4/1 Earth goal of generating 1 million hours of earth care during the 50-day church-wide earth care campaign.
"The dunes were completely washed away by the storm surge during Hurricane Sandy, taking buildings and business along with it," said Shilling Hainsworth. "Plus, a lot of the landscaping died because the salt water killed it."
Misquamicut Beach officially reopened the weekend of May 11 with the third annual SpringFest celebration, featuring carnival rides, music and other attractions, and there is a full schedule of events planned at the beach this summer. While much progress has been made, Shilling Hainsworth said things are still not quite back to normal just yet. But she hopes the Hands Along the Sands event not only celebrates the start of the summer season, but also celebrates the perseverance of those working hard to put the beach back together.
"Much has been done and the dunes have been rebuilt, but they are bare because the sea grass was all destroyed," said Shilling Hainsworth. "There is still so much more to do."
To count your efforts on the Mission 4/1 Earth tally board, report your earth care hours, trees planting and letters written, report in as often as you like here.