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Walking the Walk: Earlhamites Mobilize for Sandy Relief Effort

December 13, 2012

College students have little time for anything but finals preparation and end of the term presentations and papers during the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks.

But a group of 20 or so Earlham students who responded to junior Jese Stetson’s recent Facebook post about spreading Earlham’s love and light to the East Coast, managed a bit more. As a result a group of 25, including 17 Earlham students, will travel to Staten Island to volunteer from December 15-21. The project is called Serving Sandy’s Survivors (S3).

SSS1“Helping our neighbors and building strong moral leadership for future generations are things that students sit in pods all over campus and discuss,” Stetson says. “I enjoy engaging in these conversations, but the thing that frustrates me is when our walk doesn’t meet up with our talk. This has been a rough semester at Earlham and anytime college students give up their time to sleep or study, that’s asking a lot and these students have risen to the occasion.”

Initial ideas included fundraising and sending bottled water, toys, blankets, socks and/or money, but organizers like first-year Christy Crozier wanted to do more. After talking with different organizations, the group found that the biggest need is for volunteers who are willing to do demolition, gutting and clean-up. One of the challenges is locating housing for the volunteers because so many homes and buildings in the area have been affected. 

“We are working with an organization called UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) and they are providing a place to stay, cook and shower on Staten Island. I have 12 years of construction experience and all the tools for a small crew, and Earlham has the resources — the people, the energy and the educational capacity to see this as an important thing,” says Stetson, who along with his wife senior Nikki Vargas, have organized five similar trips for high school students in their hometown in Montana. For the upcoming trip, Stetson teamed with Earlham’s Public Health Club to raise funds and awareness.

“The Public Health Club felt that becoming involved in S3 was necessary as the goals of the trip reflect the goals of our club,” says co-convener Elsa Haag. “As a club, we not only provide resources for students interested in careers in public health, but we also place an emphasis on actually doing things — taking action to promote and improve public health around campus and around the world. Earlham is all about social justice, but sometimes it feels like that is just a theory. This is about walking the walk.”

Crozier, who has volunteered on six trips after Hurricane Katrina, agrees.

“Nothing does the heart better than a good mission trip,” Crozier says. “Earlham is very invested in what goes on in the world. I think that by going to New York, we are carrying out Earlham’s Principles and Practices through our actions.”

Students have spent valuable hours planning and coordinating the trip including two weekends canvassing Richmond’s neighborhoods and businesses for financial assistance. More than $6,000 has been raised, including a $2,185 donation from Student Organizations Council. Donations are still being accepted and may be made by contacting Stetson at jwstets11@earlham.edu.

“Donations will go directly to disaster relief,” Crozier says.

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