December 17, 2012
Shirl Doherty & Chris Rogers
Nothing brings out the best in a community like a collective response to the worst kind of disaster. Superstorm Sandy devastated the hometowns of several student athletes, prompting Shirl Doherty and Chris Rogers to coordinate an initiative to assist the victims on Staten Island. There are six Raider athletes who hail from Staten Island. One of the athletes native to this New York City borough is men’s soccer co-captain Joe Coloreo. Joe’s sister had a friend whose mom was coordinating cleanup efforts on the South Shore, working closely with Councilman Vincent Ignizio. With this connection in place, FM’s Administration gave the project a green light. At that point, the entire FM family rallied in support.
Offers of help immediately started pouring in. Faculty and staff donated cleaning supplies, hand tools, batteries, and cash. Many students volunteered their time, in some cases offering to bring family members who wanted to pitch in. Some volunteers spoke of paying forward the help that had been given to this region after Hurricane Irene. A large contingent of international students also joined the group. One Japanese student told of her experience helping with the clean up that followed the massive tsunami in April 2011. So many people volunteered that names had to be put on a waiting list.
The Center for Employer Services at FM reached out to local businesses Hill and Markes and NTI Global for help in collecting items needed for the project. Those companies generously donated countless cases of items to be used by FM volunteers or distributed to residents of Staten Island for the cleanup efforts. The Broadalbin Lions Club gave a generous cash contribution that was used to buy work gloves and dust masks, items critical for keeping volunteers safe during the clean up. Mops and buckets were graciously donated by the Amsterdam Salvation Army. Chartwells Dining Services quickly offered a free boxed continental breakfast for each volunteer. They also prepared lunches-to-go for students who participate in the meal plan.
When the group boarded the bus at 6:00 a.m. Sunday, November 11, no one was really prepared for what they would see in Staten Island. Students had no idea how many lives had been impacted by the storm. “I didn’t realize how bad Sandy was until I went to Staten Island. It was so sad to see how people lost their property,” recalled Grace Rutagengwa, co-captain of the Lady Raiders basketball team.
Many students commented on how worthwhile the trip had been. Dominique Mitchell, second co-captain of the Lady Raiders, is herself a Staten Island resident. She observed that, “Everything was taken from these people. It felt great to be able to give.” Teammate Kelsey Nethaway added, “It was complete devastation down there and it made me feel good to help out people in need.”
At the end of the day, the rewards of this volunteer effort will go way beyond the act of volunteering. The connection that the entire group made both with Staten Island residents and their peers in the FM learning community was summed up nicely by Joel Castillo, Raiders baseball player, “When it’s all over, all that matters is family.”
Shirl Doherty is FM’s TRiO Learning Center Coordinator and Chris Rogers is FM’s Coordinator for Student Athlete Academic Success and Men’s Soccer Coach.