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Sandy: Hofstra students reach out to local communities

By Elisabeth TurnerStaff Writer

Hofstra students responded to the devastation of Superstorm Sandy around Long Island last week to provide aid for local communities.

Many residents in coastal cities such as Long Beach lost the security of their homes as water surged over streets and past doors, and onto the floorboards of beachfront and inland homes.

Some of the students from the Hofstra American Marketing Association or Intervarsity Christian Fellowship helped clean up Long Beach.

Sophomore marketing major Leland Chen found a new perspective of Sandy’s impact after visiting Long Beach, a city that is located barely 10 miles south of the University.

“I thought it was very eye-opening, because here at Hofstra everything was okay for the most part. On Long Beach, it was like a war zone,” Chen said.

He noted the overriding optimism that the city’s residents seemed to exude, and their gratitude toward students like himself.

“They could not stop thanking us and all that I could think about was that if I were in their shoes, I would not know what to do,” Chen said.

First-year public relations student Joanna Soares also helped. Soares mentioned conversing with an older woman who had a collection of unique Christmas ornaments that she was saving to give to her grandchildren. The ornaments had been soaked by the storm, so the woman had laid them out to dry on the hood of her vehicle.

Soares said she felt blessed, considering that she was on campus when the storm hit and didn’t have to suffer the effects of power outage here at the University.

“I think it’s definitely inspiring to see young people helping because there’s a generalization that our age group doesn’t really care about what’s going on,” she said.

Compared to Long Beach and other parts of Nassau and Suffolk counties, the Hofstra campus did indeed fare well.  Joe Barkwill, Hofstra’s Vice President for Facilities and Operations, noted that the only major source of on-campus damage was that of the trees. “We are very fortunate,” he said.

Barkwill said that only about 110 trees were lost, either due to uprooting by the force of the storm or because they were severely damaged. There weren’t any reported on-campus injuries or prolonged periods without power.

Jack Nelson, Associate Dean of International Recruitment at Hofstra also felt the brunt of the storm.

“Anything cloth or electronic was destroyed,” he said, referring to some of his belongings.

He also spoke of the motivation that Long Beach residents have to re-build.

“The attitude of people down there is extraordinary… no one is really being depressed or wallowing in their own destruction. It’s more of doing what needs to be done,” Nelson said.

The storm caused flooding that filled the basement or first floors of certain houses with a foot of murky seawater and has rendered the city seemingly helpless. At one end of the city near the ocean’s edge, leaves and debris were strewn between the holes of a fence. Still, the sun peeks through the clouds, shining onto the sand, the water’s surface and past dune plants, creating shadows. The scene is calm and still, a few seagulls hovering in the distance as if the daytime sky had not been rendered black only a few days before.

Ruined furniture lined the sidewalks near the houses along with trash bags filled with salt-water soaked clothes and other damaged belongings.  Across the way of one sidewalk, a dozen or so floorboards lay piled in a heap. 7-year resident Lee Sprague noted the rubble.

“That’s somebody’s life right there,” Sprague said.

He was busy sweeping debris off the sidewalk outside his house when he mentioned how fortunate he was, in spite of other people’s losses.

“The water came up to my front door, but it never came in,” Sprague said.

Sprague remembered the flooding as epic and uncanny, the likes of which Long Beach had never before seen.

“I took videos of it … it was like rapids coming through. It was very scary and heartbreaking,” he said.

Pete Meyers, another Long Beach resident who lived in a house on 716 West Olive Street didn’t fare quite as well as Sprague. Meyers, Head Treasurer at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in Manhattan, has lived at his house on Long Beach for about 25 years. The water soaked his garage and basement, resulting in the loss of two cars.

Meyers remained hopeful and mentioned the gratitude he feels for the group of Hofstra students that came over the weekend to help clean up, as well as other people from outside the community that brought food: “20-year-olds running down the block with Egg McMuffins… everyone’s been amazing.”

According to a Facebook event post, Hofstra’s Intervarsity Christian Fellowship will be hosting a relief effort on Thursday at Hofstra USA for students to write letters of encouragement and help organize donated goods.

Hofstra students will continue to aid dislodged folks on Long Beach, as well as other Long Island communities through donations such as the Supply Drive. The drive is accepting non-perishable food items, cleaning supplies, personal hygienic items and necessities such as batteries and plastic storage bins. Drop-off bins are located in Hofstra Hall, the Student Center Main Dining Room, Alumni House, Adams Playhouse, Continuing Education and Hagedorn Hall.

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