Adelphi responds to Sandy’s ravages.

By Bonnie Eissner 

Students volunteer in local towns devastated by Superstorm Sandy

Water, so vital, can be so destructive, as Hurricane Sandy proved when it slammed the tri-state area last October.

In Far Rockaway, Queens, one resident had just finished renovating her modest multifamily home. She and her daughter had one night to enjoy their spruced-up dwelling—fresh paint, new kitchen cabinets and countertops—before the water came on October 28.

Just over a month later, on December 12, 2012, about 25 Adelphi students and administrators traveled to Far Rockaway on the last of six fall service trips. One of the first stops was that house on Beach 68th Street. In a back room were piles of items that had been salvaged—bags full of clothes, shoes, lamps, plates, framed pictures and assorted mementos. Many other items, including books, furniture and photos, were beyond saving.

By the end of the day, the house had been stripped to its studs, its former contents spilling down the driveway and heaped along the sidewalk. That home was just one of a number that Adelphi volunteers helped clean up that day.

Students provide demolition and cleanup assistance after Superstorm Sandy
On November 8, 2012, about 60 Adelphi students, faculty and staff traveled to Long Beach to assist with Sandy recovery efforts. The trip was one of six organized by the University last fall.

Michael Berthel ’08, M.A. ’11, senior assistant director of the Center for Student Involvement (CSI), had organized the December Rockaways trip and the prior ones to other storm-ravaged areas. In fact, Mr. Berthel had been coordinating Adelphi’s outreach effort, which encompassed a massive donation drive and a blood drive, as well as the service trips and other outreach projects since the day after Sandy hit.

Christa Ciuffo ’15, a residence assistant and director of community service for the student-run social action club, C.A.L.I.B.E.R., helped Mr. Berthel recruit more than 200 student volunteers to run the blood and donation drives the weekend after Sandy hit.

Moved to do more, Ms. Ciuffo put Mr. Berthel in touch with her communications professor, Jaime Jordan, a part-time Adelphi faculty member who was coordinating relief efforts in Rockaway Beach. From that came Adelphi’s first big service trip on November 7 with more than 40 volunteers. Ms. Ciuffo knows friends who, because of the storm, lost homes or rescued loved ones from fire, but she says that the Rockaway trip and the other three for which she volunteered “showed me how bad Hurricane Sandy really was.”

Like Ms. Ciuffo, Sergio Argueta, the director of undergraduate programs in the Adelphi University School of Social Work, has deep ties to Sandy victims, particularly in Long Beach, where he attends church.

Mr. Argueta, with the support of the School of Social Work, teamed up with his church and other nonprofits to coordinate the outreach and worked with Mr. Berthel to recruit and organize Adelphi volunteers. And, on November 8, about 60 students, faculty and staff traveled to Long Beach on the first of three School-sponsored service trips to Long Beach, Oceanside and Island Park, respectively.

Stefani Occhiuto, a junior majoring in social work, participated in all three of the School of Social Work trips. She even helped Mr. Argueta arrange the trip to Oceanside, her hometown. She describes moving everything, from personal belongings to furniture, amid the reek of rot and sewage. “The heavy things didn’t even feel so heavy because it was just something that needed to be done,” she says. 

Excerpted from Adelphi University Magazine Spring 2013 edition.

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