Crisfield began as a small fishing village but grew into a large city in the 1850’s after the discovery of abundant oyster beds. This discovery led John W. Crisfield to bring the Eastern Shore Railroad to the town’s seaport. Seafood was soon being shipped all over the US, and the small village became a prosperous city. By 1904, Crisfield was the second largest city in Maryland and was known as the “Seafood Capital of the World.”
As the health of the Chesapeake Bay declined, so did the prosperity of Crisfield. Currently, Crisfield is the poorest town in Somerset County, which is the poorest county in Maryland. In 2009, nearly 50% of Crisfield’s residents were living below the poverty line.
Crisfield is surrounded by salt marshes and was built on a floodplain. As Hurricane Sandy passed Maryland on October 29, 2012, a five-foot storm surge left most of the city underwater. Over 500 homes were flooded, rendering most of them unlivable.
In November 2012, MDS was contacted about the possibility of helping with rebuilding and recovery in Crisfield. The Delmarva unit and the Eastern Virginia unit of MDS have collaborated to respond to this need. Most of the homes that can be repaired have been gutted and dried out, and now the work includes wiring, drywall, painting, new floors, etc. It is also anticipated that in the coming months there will be multiple new homes to build.
MDS volunteers will be housed in the old American Legion Building. Separate sleeping and bath facilities will be available for males and females and a kitchen/dining area has been added for meals.