Campus organizations join forces to maximize their impact on disaster relief.

Drew students have rolled up their sleeves to help hard-hit communities as far south as Toms River, NJ. Their future plan includes extending their relief effort into Staten Island, NY.

For Drew, Hurricane Sandy hit close to home, literally and figuratively. The superstorm, which caused physical damage to the school’s campus and in nearby neighborhoods, inspired an ad hoc group of students, faculty and staff to launch a disaster relief initiative to support those in need.

Led by Drew Disaster Relief Project head Nick Klein ’13 and Circle K President Victoria Dayton ’13, the university’s storm response began with a call for donations.

“We focused on collecting items that people need most, like food, clothing, linens, toiletries, household cleaners and pet supplies,” says Dayton. “The outpouring of support from the Drew community snowballed until our stockpile of supplies filled up two conference rooms, three cars and one dorm room,” Klein added.

Each weekend since the storm, students have driven to devastated areas on the Jersey Shore and Staten Island to help residents “by moving trash out of their homes, ripping up ruined carpet, salvaging reparable possessions and babysitting kids,” Dayton says. “We’ve also worked with the Salvation Army to make and serve food.”

According to Klein—an Eagle Scout whose involvement in disaster relief began with Drew’s Louisiana-based Katrina response—the university’s Sandy relief movement was born on social media. By using Facebook and Twitter, he engaged students, faculty and staff in a dialogue about how Drew could help.

He says the group soon came to include members of student organizations like Alpha Phi Omega, Hillel, the Volunteer Resource Center, the Residence Hall Association, the Theological Students Association, and the Graduate Students Association, along with university departments like the Center for Civic Engagement.

Students, faculty and staff from these and others organizations formed the relief committee, which focused initially on offering assistance to members of the university community whose homes had been damaged or destroyed by the storm, says co-chair Wyatt Evans, associate professor of history. These efforts included providing temporary housing on campus and organizing rideshares to minimize the impact of a statewide gas shortage, before expanding beyond the university to meet the needs of others in affected areas.

Dayton says the Drew community isn’t planning on calling its quits anytime soon. “Our plan is to be out there until we’re no longer needed,” she says.—Michael Bressman