Moravian College community volunteers in Hurricane Sandy relief
Students, faculty and administrators of Moravian College have been active during the last month, assisting victims of Hurricane Sandy. The College has partnered with volunteer groups in some of the areas hit hardest by the storm. One of the most fruitful collaborations has been the one in Staten Island with Vanderbilt Avenue and Castleton Hill Moravian churches.
The collaboration with these groups led to a volunteer trip to Staten Island on November 17, sponsored by the Center for Leadership and Service. During the trip, the College’s volunteers toured the area to see the devastation and brought food to the churches. By donating their time, money and used goods, and by leading their own volunteering initiatives, people in the Moravian College Community have been of great help to people affected by the storm.
The volunteers were shocked to see the full extent of the storm’s devastation. Bethany Rang ’16, a student who assisted in the relief efforts, said, “I’ve seen pictures, but it was way different to see it firsthand.” Although the pictures on the news are horrific, they show only isolated areas of devastation. The volunteers found it humbling to see how widespread the destruction actually was.
|Distribution centers were set up on street corners for victims of the disaster.
Rang described the tag system used to identify homes in Staten Island after the storm: Red tags identified homes that were completely devastated and uninhabitable. Yellow tags were used to caution volunteers that the homes were dangerous. Green tags were used for homes that were safe to enter but still needed to be repaired. Seeing such solemn scenes was an eye-opening experience for many volunteers. Virginia Adams O'Connell, professor of sociology, was one of the volunteers. She said there were moments during the bus tour during which everyone went silent, shocked by the devastation.
Those suffering in Staten Island were welcoming to the volunteers and grateful for their efforts. The College’s chaplain, Rev. C. Hopeton Clennon, described the reaction he received from the partner churches after the trip. “Reports I have received from the hosts in Staten Island are filled with expressions of gratitude for the service trip—particularly during the dinner. Paula [the community coordinator for the Vanderbilt Avenue Moravian Church] deeply appreciated her conversations, and thought our students were excellent.”
Dr. O’Connell called the student volunteers, “an incredible group. They were thoughtful and kind, and made the institution proud with how they treated people throughout the day. They treated everyone with the utmost dignity.” Rang added, “everyone who talked to us was so thankful, so friendly.”
The chance to help the people of Staten Island made the trip rewarding for everyone who volunteered. Dr. O’Connell said seeing the efforts was “a credit to the goodness of human nature.” She also noted that it was heartwarming to see the widespread nature of the relief efforts. In addition to the borough’s residents who helped, volunteers from outside the area flocked into the borough to assist in the relief. There were ad-hoc distribution centers on almost every corner, and Rang said the experience gave her “faith in humanity.”
The Center for Leadership and Service has continued its efforts to build relationships in Staten Island through trips hosted on December 4 and 6. On these trips, volunteers worked with the Castleton Hill Moravian Church to sort and box clothes donated for storm victims. The Center will run trips next semester to assist in trash clean-up and is assisting student groups that are attempting to provide some form of relief to hurricane victims, facilitating communication with volunteers through an e-mail list, and keeping the College community informed about relief efforts with a blog.
Many student-led groups and individual members of the campus community have been active in relief efforts. Before a November 8 junior varsity game, the women’s basketball team collected donations for Union County College, located in one of the hardest hit regions of New Jersey. United Student Government donated $120 in concessions proceeds from the November 17 Hound Sound concert to the American Red Cross’s relief efforts. Jason Toedter, associate head coach of the women’s tennis team, and his wife, Gabby, led a collection for those at the Jersey shore and in New York who were affected by the story. Grace Ji-Sun Kim, associate professor of doctrinal theology, wrote an article for ethicsdaily.com exploring whether the effects of the storm will lead Americans to be more conscious of their role in environmental problems such as climate change and pollution. Students also have continued their volunteer work at local community service organization such as New Bethany Ministries, the United Way of the Lehigh Valley, the Miller-Keystone Blood Bank and local animal shelters.
Rang has been involved in community service most of her life. She says that it has made her more understanding of others and more open-minded about people. She said, “We’ve been given a great opportunity to go to college. It [community service] is a responsibility. We have a lot to be thankful for, a lot of gifts to share.”
O’Connell agreed with her, “It’s our basic human responsibility to make the most of our talents, whatever our talents are.”
Katie Dantsin, director of leadership development, expressed hope that students’ college experiences with service will develop a commitment to continue their service after graduation. She also applauded the members of the Moravian College community who are taking the initiative to lead the efforts around the hurricane relief, “It’s re-affirming to know we have students who are willing to step up. We facilitate a lot of opportunities, but we know students have their own ideas, and we want to help support them.”