Assisting the victims of Sandy

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By Dean Constant

Saturday mornings for the typical Union student are generally relaxed.

Students take advantage of the opportunity to sleep in and wake up to a West dining omelet.

However, on the morning of Saturday, April 13, 45 members of Chi Psi and Sigma Delta Tau traveled to nearby Schoharie County to help rebuild houses that were severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

The clean-up and maintenance day, termed “Day of Service” by the Schoharie Area Long Term (SALT) volunteer group, allowed many residents in the area to move forward as they attempt to start over in the wake of this natural disaster.

Along with SALT, the Union Greeks and AmeriCorps helped these victims by assisting in the removal  and reconstruction of destroyed sections of the house.

On this one day, approximately 225 man-hours were accumulated by the students as they aided victims whose houses had been ravaged by the hurricane.

Residents, such as Middleburgh’s 86-year-old World War II veteran Joe Salomon, were glowing with appreciation for the work that these young men and women had done.

“I have never been as blessed as I am now,” praised Salomon.  “I would not have been able to do what they did today in two years by myself!”

Whether it was painting or breaking down a half-torn apart porch, the volunteers helped in the maintenance and rebuilding of homes throughout the county.

According to Benjamin Bucinell ‘14, a Chi Psi brother who organized the trip, the work the volunteers have done is essential due to a lack of funds for the victims.

“The thing that people tend to forget is that FEMA does offer money to the victims,” said Bucinell.  “But the problem lies in the fact that the victims do not receive enough money to cover demolition and reconstruction fees. That’s why our help is so vital.”

Bucinell added that not only were people excited to give back to the victims, but that several people have come up to him to ask when the next opportunity would be to help Schoharie.

Alexa DiBenedetto ‘14, a sister of Sigma Delta Tau, said that the AmeriCorps and SALT members were very supportive of the work that the Union Greeks did for the Hurricane Sandy victims.

“Everyone there was so helpful and appreciative of the work that we were doing,” said DiBenedetto. “We were all doing our part and some of the boys got really into it.  I loved the trip and I would absolutely do it again.”

This was not the first time that a Union College organization had made a trip to Schoharie to assist in hurricane relief.

Other volunteer groups have worked alongside SALT, which is lead by Union alumnus Josh DeBartolo ‘08.

DeBartolo started the organization in the wake of Hurricane Sandy last fall and has been helping to organize various volunteer groups, church groups and Union groups to aid in the reconstruction of damaged homes throughout the Schoharie community.

Bucinell stated that until he had volunteered there over his spring break he had no idea how severely the hurricane had hit the area.

He added that there is still much work to be done in Schoharie and that it is very easy for people to get involved because SALT is always looking for more volunteers.

“I cannot stress enough how important it is for people to volunteer,” said Bucinell.  “These people have gone through so much and every little bit of help they get is crucial. Plus, it’s great to be able to give back to a local community in need.”

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