Photo by Jennifer Hsieh

Even before campus resumed its normal schedule the Monday after superstorm Sandy pounded New Jersey, conversations began among faculty, staff and students about how to help with relief efforts.

An ad hoc committee quickly came together with representatives from the Drew Disaster Relief Project, Circle K, Volunteer Resource Center, Hillel and the Theological and Graduate student associations.  According to co-chair, Wyatt Evans, associate professor of history, “the committee’s first concern was to ensure that members of the Drew community who needed assistance received it.  The next priority was to plan and conduct outreach efforts, both in the immediate future and for the longer term.”

Two online forums were created for the campus community. One forum connected those who needed temporary housing with those who had room to spare.  Drew also provided rooms in Welch Hall to nine staff members and eleven commuter students whose homes were without power or damaged in the storm. Another online forum facilitated carpooling and ridesharing since gas rationing, road closures, and inoperable trains made travel difficult. Carol Ueland, professor of Russian, was among a group of New York-based faculty who shared rides.  She reports that, “Although there were over 90 minute delays some days, everyone made great efforts to keep classes going and support one other.”

During his first two years at Drew, Nick Klein C’13 had participated in Drew Disaster Relief trips to Katrina-ravaged New Orleans.  When he saw what Sandy had done here, he knew it was important to immediately engage fellow students in relief efforts.  He created Facebook and Twitter pages to launch the dialogue, and share information about resources and volunteer opportunities. “I feel really proud of how the University community has responded,” reflects Nick from his work-study post.

Under the leadership of Victoria Dayton C’13, the Circle K club used the Drew Relief Facebook site to promote a clothing drive and recruit service volunteers.  Fifteen Drew students, together with volunteers from other New Jersey colleges, spent this past Saturday in Tom’s River, NJ – one of the hard hit coastal towns.  Says Victoria, “When I saw the destruction, I just had to get down there to help.”

The students cleaned mounds of sand and debris out of the community center to set up a distribution spot for the coats, clothes, and blankets that they, and others, had collected.  The remainder of the day was spent helping residents remove storm-damaged furniture and building materials out of their houses.

In spite of the fact that these students still have classes to attend, exams to take, and papers to write, they are committed to helping with relief efforts.  Right now they are texting and tweeting to organize a service trip this Saturday to the devastated borough of Staten Island.–Barbara Perkins P’09


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