When Hurricane Sandy hit, virtually all of Princeton lost power and phone service. The next day, Princeton United Methodist Church – situated on a busy corner — opened its doors. That day, and all that week, Pastor Jana Purkis-Brash and Music Director Hyosang Park plugged in the coffee pot and posted a sign on the lawn. It read: Come in! Get warm! Charge and use our WiFi!
On Wednesday two dozen passersby sought brief refuge from the cold, plus nearly 100 people spent the day — they charged their phones and logged onto PUMC’s Wifi. Those who were stranded made travel arrangements; others answered their office email or updated Facebook pages so their friends would know they were OK. Church members hosted in the Sanford Davis room. Then at 4 p.m. the Cornerstone Community Kitchen team converted it into a dining room. That’s because PUMC – in partnership with the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen — serves free meals to all on Wednesdays. This week PUMC’s Cornerstone Community Kitchen menu was roast pork and mashed potatoes, salad, and dessert for 73 hungry people.
On Thursday PUMC hosted 75 WiFi users – everyone from entrepreneurs who stayed all day to families with children who just dropped by. Some were referred by the Princeton Public Library, which was having trouble meeting the demand. Even PUMC’s WiFi had faltered because of too many users, so two more Wifi nodes were added. On Thursday PUMC served breakfast, lunch, and another Cornerstone Community Kitchen dinner – this time, spaghetti for 100 people. At that point few in Princeton had power, and it was getting quite cold. PUMC hosted again on Friday.
“You imagine that this is what a church should do, but you rarely ever see it done,” said Diana Rhodes, one of the grateful visitors. “What a wonderful service you have provided!”