By Katie Ziemba
Across the East Coast, major roadways, bridges and even mass transit were closed due to Hurricane Irene. For people in the Schenectady area, this flooding was anything but normal. Local favorite Jumping Jack’s Drive-in experienced flooding from the Mohawk River that rose all the way of the the roof and forced owners to close early for the season.
While many students flocked back to campus this past week, a group of Union students chose to help the Schenectady area with its efforts to recover from extreme water damage.
Scudder Clay ‘13 and Ben Weiner ‘13 contacted Angela Tatem, Director of the Kenney Community Center, to see how they could help with relief work. Along with a few of their fraternity brothers, Clay and Weiner went to Rotterdam Junction, an area severely damaged by flooding from Irene.
As soon as they arrived, Clay said that the students “just looked around and asked who needed help. Within a few seconds a man came and said he ‘needs four or five guys,’ and the students began their work.”
For most of the Rotterdam residents, it was their first day back in their homes that they were able to assess the damage caused by Irene. The homes that students saw were mostly marked to be demolished because of the extreme water damage. Many residents recounted that the first floors of their homes were flooded within ten minutes.
Sporting masks and gloves, students worked for hours to retrieve whatever they could from the soaked homes. Weiner recounted that one man told the Union students that when he first found out about the flood, he went to his elderly parents’ home and found them sitting in their chairs in the water.
“I was emotionally drained,” claimed Weiner. “These people had lost everything.”
One resident told Clay, “All we can do is work hard and start again.”
As part of the Union College freshman pre-orientation program, 58 incoming freshman participated in a volunteer-based community program for several days.
Though these organizations were not all directly helping those affected by the damage from Irene, all student volunteers were able to help the community in their volunteer efforts.
Some students volunteered with the Salvation Army and helped to feed and give water to those affected by the flooding. Others worked at Habitat for Humanity to repair homes across the Schenectady area.
While there is a growing group of volunteers contacting the Kenney Community Center to help, Tatem mentioned that the community center currently is not adequately equipped with a large amount of disaster management.
However, Kenney Community Center welcomes volunteers, and will contact interested students as soon as the center is able to process all of the area’s needs.