Student Activities, Campus Ministry and Social Action lead the charge to help on and off campus.
In the wake of one of the worst storms to ever hit New York City, the Manhattan College community took “Go Jaspers!” to heart. They went.
From Riverdale to the Rockaways, three buses of 80 students and staff traveled to St. Francis de Sales Parish on Nov. 10 to assist with hurricane cleanup.
The trip was the first of three Saturdays for Sandy, a new take on Saturdays in the City, the weekly sightseeing series run by Student Activities.
“We’re still in the city, but it’s something so important and relevant right now. It made sense to give it more attention,” says John Bennett, director of Student Activities.
Senior Mike Scire, a physical education major who’s spent the past six summers lifeguarding and living with his aunt in Rockaway on Beach 125th Street, arrived optimistic and ready to help rebuild.
“I met students that I didn’t know before,” he says. “I was really proud to see everyone come out.”
Donned in Jasper gear, the Manhattan group met with Scire’s aunt and neighbors who tasked them with gutting houses, digging out damaged cars, shoveling debris and clearing the sand-ridden streets.
A spirit of service is at the heart of our mission.
“You could see the progress and the appreciation. Everyone was cheering ‘Go Jaspers!’ as we left,” Scire adds. “I just hope that everything gets back to normal, and even better than it was before.”
The following week on Nov. 17, an even larger group of 100 returned to the Rockaways a second time, continuing the cleanup and most importantly, boosting morale.
The semester’s final Saturday for Sandy will take place Dec. 1 on Staten Island in partnership with Rebuild Staten Island.
“A spirit of service is at the heart of our mission,” says Brennan O’Donnell, Ph.D., president of Manhattan College. “Even before the storm ended, students and staff were reaching out over email and social media to organize efforts to help. It’s what it means to be a Jasper.”
On campus, dozens of students lit up the night during a Nov. 13 candlelight vigil held by Kappa Delta Pi, the College’s education honor society. Moderator Brother Raymond Meagher, FSC, assistant professor of education, led a prayer for the victims and families of Sandy following a group singalong of God Bless America.
“God, give them the hope that they will need to not give up no matter how bad the situation or the problem, so they can get through this terrible experience. Hope is what will keep them going and hold them together,” he offered.
The vigil was also an opportunity for members of the College community to share their personal reflections on the hurricane in a caring and supportive environment.
“That’s what De La Salle stands for, that’s what Kappa Delta Pi stands for, so we wanted that sense of community and have it connect for all members of Manhattan College,” says Michele Palazzo, co-president of Kappa Delta Pi and a senior elementary education major.
In addition to holding events, students have offered their ongoing support by donating warm clothes, batteries, flashlights, medicine and food to various local Catholic relief charities through the Aisling Center in Yonkers, N.Y.
A number of groups on campus have added fundraisers to benefit hurricane relief, including a senior class raffle, a custom-made Jaspers for Sandy Relief T-shirt sale, and a Helping Hands message board in Locke’s Loft.
The nearly $2,000 raised from all of Manhattan College’s efforts will be donated in full to the Lasallian Solidarity Fund for Educational Support, which will directly aid Lasallian schools and families in the areas that were hit hardest including Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School in Brooklyn, Christian Brothers Academy in Lincroft, N.J., Saint Peter’s High School for Boys in Staten Island and the Martin de Porres Schools.
Looking ahead, Student Activities is planning its annual Turkey Trot 5K and a buy-in recreation day at Draddy Gym with all proceeds to benefit hurricane relief.
“This isn’t about checking things off the list once we’re done. It’ll continue into next semester, too,” Bennett says. “It’s been a humbling experience.”