Although Hurricane Sandy ended her devastating tantrum nearly three months ago, SUNY Cortland Student Government Association President LeighMarie Weber knows firsthand that the recovery effort is far from over.
Weber, a junior speech and hearing science major from Williston Park, N.Y., was reminded of that when she returned home to Long Island for winter break. Her brother, who lost a car to the storm, remained displaced from his Long Beach, N.Y., home until the second week of January due to flood damage.
“People are still trying to put their lives back together,” said Weber, a member of the campus group created to help areas hurt by Sandy. “They’re so, so grateful for all that’s been done, but anyone who’s from there knows that there’s still work left to do.”
Long Island natives make up nearly 40 percent of SUNY Cortland’s undergraduate student population. That’s just one of many reasons the College continues the assistance effort it launched in the days after the second costliest hurricane in U.S. history.
“Right away, I had people coming up to me asking what they could do to help out,” Weber said. “So many people and different groups stepped up and we’re hoping to maintain that energy into the spring.”
A team of students, faculty and staff members coordinated a collective campus effort that began in early November.
Besides Weber, that group included Amanda Carpenter, the project coordinator for New York Public Interest Research Group; Richard Coyne ’07, the general manager of the Lynne Parks ’68 SUNY Cortland Alumni House; Rev. Vicki Johnson, the Protestant chaplain for the Interfaith Center; Sean Jolliff, the captain of student-run Emergency Medical Services; Christopher Kuretich, the assistant vice president for student affairs; and John Suarez, the coordinator of service-learning for the Institute for Civic Engagement.
Three truckloads of much-needed supplies were collected at the College’s Parks Alumni House and shuttled by Coyne to a makeshift collection shelter in Freeport, N.Y.
“My truck has a 6-foot bed and each time I made a trip it was packed with cleaning supplies, canned goods and the rest of the necessities,” said Coyne, a Long Island native from Wantagh, N.Y.
His most recent trip occurred in late December, two months after the storm devastated downstate New York and New Jersey. Even then, there was a need for supplies.
“I have friends and family members who lost a lot,” Coyne said. “Any (SUNY Cortland) graduates with ties to the area will say the same.
“But what’s encouraging through all of it is the willingness to help, even in places like Central New York. There were people coming to the Alumni House from the outside community just to drop stuff off.”
Besides the donation collection, several other campus projects benefitted hurricane relief. Monetary donations topped $1,300. And in November, the College’s Cortaca Challenge Blood Drive collected 65 units —enough blood to save nearly 200 lives and help overcome a shortfall forced by Hurricane Sandy.
Weber said she was overwhelmed by the initial response of her classmates. She said she’s encouraged them to keep the storm’s lasting effects on their minds during the spring semester.
“Clubs are always looking for ideas for their spring-semester fundraisers,” she said. “And even though (Hurricane Sandy) might not make the news every night, the need’s still there.
“My advice is always the same,” she said. “Let’s keep this going.”
For more information on how to contribute to SUNY Cortland's efforts, contact one of the coordinating members listed on the Hurricane Sandy Relief Project page.