Thanks to support from Misericordia University students and alumni, New York and New Jersey residents are not left alone to pick up pieces from the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy.
Representatives from Misericordia University spent the weekend of Nov. 9 delivering relief supplies and lending a helping hand to residents of New York's Staten Island. Donations of food, water, cleaning supplies and other items were collected at the university, loaded into a van and driven to Staten Island.
Jim Miller, a senior in the Occupational Therapy program at Misericordia, didn't realize right away that the group was in the damaged area. The main street seemed fine but then you looked down a side street and there would be a boat in the middle of a street, he said.
It was so bad, said Kellyann Gough, Misericordia student from Chester, New York. Gough is originally from Staten Island and has family affected during the storm. I've been to the area we were at hundreds of thousands of times and it was very upsetting, she said about hurricane damage.
Gough said, thankfully, her family members were not put out due to storm damage but their power was just returned late last week.
The students described the mess left in the wake of Sandy. They talked about homes caked with mud. You would see a glove on the sidewalk just covered with debris, said Gough. A dog was crated outside because his owners feared if he were indoors he might become ill from eating the debris.
Police, fire companies and the National Guard were all over the area doing their part. Cars were washed onto the sidewalks and filled with mud. There was water everywhere, and the students described the smell as horrible.
Even with the masks on you could smell it, said Caroline Landen, a sophomore.
After dropping off their collected supplies at designated locations, the six students were off to get their hands dirty. They walked the streets of Staten Island searching for anyone in need of help. They helped gut houses, clear debris and clean up the broken pieces of the lives of residents most affected. Landen said there was so much water damage that drywall crumbled in her hands and she was easily able to put her foot through once-strong walls.
Miller said the homes were marked with colored fliers placed in windows. A green flier meant the home was safe to live in. Yellow meant the residents needed to be cautious because the home had suffered significant damage. These were the homes the students helped repair. Homes with red fliers were a total loss and could not be returned to. Miller said most of those homes were completely off their foundations.
They were still in shock, Landen of the residents they met. I just don't think it hit them yet that their entire homes were gone.
In one house, students were asked to break up furniture and recruited some assistance from three men passing by at the time who were excited to help. The men gave the students I (heart) Staten Island t-shirts that were sold as part of a fundraiser for the disaster relief.
We laughed a lot and we made it fun but we were focused and we knew what we had to do, Miller said, but we always remained respectful.
Miller also shared that students encountered language barrier difficulties while helping homeowners, but admitted it was never hard to see where help was needed.
After finishing at one home, Gough said the girls had a conversation with the homeowner. The woman thanked them over and over and told the girls she couldn't express how thankful she was for their help.
They needed a lot of help, said Landen. I would want help if something like this had happened to me.
After their long day of helping those in need, the group of volunteers traveled 40 minutes outside the city to Bridgewater, NJ, where Landen's mother made dinner for the group.
Other students who lent a helping hand include Emily Kudlacik, Parsippany, NJ; Alexandra Graham, Madison, NJ; and Irene Donnelly, Olyphant.
Misericordia students are planning other trips to take relief to the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
Kristen Samuels, Outreach Coordinator for the university, said the swim team was scheduled to deliver more supplies to the victims of the storm this past Saturday.
We've got lots of generous students, said Samuels. She is hoping the university is able to send donations steadily until the students leave campus for Thanksgiving vacation.