A Band of Helpers
October 5, 2011
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Community Works To Support Area Hurricane Victims
Last month, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee followed a path along the United States eastern seaboard, through New York City, and inland between the Hudson and Connecticut river valleys onward to Vermont and Canada. In the aftermath, several communities have been trying to pick up the pieces while dealing with the impact of extreme flooding, rainfall, and power outages. To assist several local communities, a band of helpers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has been engaged in ongoing volunteer efforts.
In parts of the Capital Region, the storm resulted in extensive damage, especially along creeks and river beds. Localities along the Schoharie Creek, the Poestenkill, Mohawk and Hudson rivers, and other waterways suffered damage to both infrastructure and personal property. In the weeks following Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, many of the communities continue to be vulnerable, not only to weather impacts on the already saturated landscape, but also to public health concerns brought on by mold, mildew, and bacteria growing across the flood-ravaged areas.
“The devastation caused by Hurricane Irene will continue to have a profound impact on our neighbors and this region for some time to come,” said Cynthia Smith ’96, assistant dean of students and director of pipeline initiatives and partnerships. “Individuals who have embraced the ‘RPI RELIEF — Hurricane Irene’ initiative have been met in all the storm-damaged areas they have visited with heartfelt gratitude and appreciation by neighbors who are persevering to save and rebuild their communities.”
Smith noted that within days of the storm, more than 100 students, faculty, staff, alumni, student organizations, fraternities, and community members rolled up their sleeves to assist in a series of clean-up efforts in the areas of Schoharie, Prattsville, Middleburgh, and Poestenkill. Volunteer efforts will continue throughout the fall semester.
The RPI RELIEF program is focused on raising awareness and funds, as well as coordinating volunteer initiatives when disaster strikes an area. Current plans include raising funds for the American Red Cross of Northeastern New York and the Regional Farm and Food Project to assist victims of flooding throughout the Capital Region, and the collection of items to assist in clean-up projects. To further support the projects, the Office of the President has provided financial support by making a $10,000 donation. The contribution will address the cost of the volunteer efforts in the communities impacted by the floods (including transportation and safety items for the student, staff, and faculty volunteers). Any remaining dollars will be contributed to match funds raised for the supported causes.
“I have a friend who lives in Schoharie, and it was after
only after hearing from them that I truly got a sense of the
impact of Hurricane Irene,” said Laura Easterling, a native of
Ventura, Calif., and a junior majoring in environmental
“There is a great need for community service, and I feel that any limited time that I have is better spent helping residents who have been impacted. It’s very inspiring to see the changes taking place in these communities and in people’s lives.”
Easterling is one of several students taking the lead to coordinate volunteer efforts. Other students include: Tyler Cassetta-Frey, Josh Klemaszewski, Katie Grabowski, and Victoria Song. The growing list of student groups include the Student Senate, the American Red Cross Club, the Class of 2013, Community Advocates, the Community Service Committee, Alpha Phi Omega, and members of Alpha Chi Rho, as well as members of the Navy Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (NROTC) program.
In response to direct requests from the community, there are many stories to tell. For example, fraternity members from Pi Kappa Alpha, along with Delta Phi, worked in several shifts to help the owners of Jose Malone’s, a Mexican-Irish restaurant located in downtown Troy, who expressed “great appreciation” for their help. In addition, shortly after the storm, two members of RPI Ambulance made their way to the Greene County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) following a request for ambulance and fire department units to relieve their crews, according to Matthew Willett, captain of RPI Ambulance. Willett noted that it was a “privilege to be able to assist the town in their time of need.”
On Sept. 25, a group of Rensselaer volunteers spent much of the day in the town of Poestenkill, N.Y., one of the affected areas in Rensselaer County. Following the visit, Poestenkill Town Supervisor, Dom Jacangelo expressed his sincere thanks for the group’s efforts. “I can’t tell you how many great comments I had from people from around town who sincerely appreciated the effort that RPI and your students made on Sunday,” he said. “On behalf of the entire town…Thank you very much!”
Past RPI RELIEF efforts have included student initiatives to support those impacted by Hurricane Katrina, and the earthquakes and tsunamis in southeast Asia, and recently in Japan.
For more information about RPI Relief efforts to support Hurricane Irene victims, visit: http://doso.rpi.edu/update.do.
Contact: Jessica Otitigbe
Phone: (518) 276-6050