Stevens Professor Rainer Martini offers a first-hand account of the tireless efforts of Stevens volunteers in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
As Hurricane Sandy slowly lost its power I was fortunate to retain mine. But I itched to help those who were much less fortunate. As soon as Hoboken asked for volunteers, I made my way to City Hall.
When I arrived, there was already a group of approximately 30 volunteers waiting for instructions, plus a few members of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and the administration of the City of Hoboken. I immediately recognized several Stevens students among the volunteers, and as the crowd grew, more and more familiar faces arrived.
Finally, we got our marching orders: distributing water to elderly and handicapped people who were trapped in one of the high-rises on the waterfront. To get more resources and helping hands, many of the Stevens students reached out to their fraternity brothers, sorority sisters and roommates. And then we were off.
The destination was a 25-story building with only two narrow stairways. The elevators were out of service and there was not enough pressure in the water lines to reach beyond the second floor. There weren’t nearly enough buckets to transport water to the higher floors.
While some of us brainstormed possible solutions, the volunteers divided into groups assigned to different floors. Members of the Stevens men’s wrestling team immediately stepped up, volunteering to deliver water to the residents of the top floors of the building.
“Our coach told us to lose weight – let us take the highest floors,” they said, and headed up effortlessly to floor 23, 24 and 25.
While the rest of us were still organizing, the telephone calls to other Stevens students started to pay off. Roommates, teammates, fraternity brothers and sorority sisters joined us in our mission, grabbing buckets, pots, waste baskets and canisters filled with water and climbing up the stairs to deliver them to residents.
It was physically exhausting work, and it took a long time to reach all of the floors. It took so long we knew the Stevens cafeteria would be closed when we returned to campus. But not a single Stevens volunteer left – not until the residents of every floor had been delivered water.
The residents thanks us profusely when we were released from our volunteer “duty.” I was so proud of all the Stevens students who showed up, volunteered and helped out until the end, even as they missed their dinner.
I returned to the volunteer station in City Hall on subsequent days, and the scene has changed drastically. Instead of only few people showing up, the room now buzzes with activity. Many of the volunteers – again – are Stevens students.
One Stevens student who first helped deliver water to the high rise is now in charge of the volunteer efforts. Without any electricity, computers or IT infrastructure – she set up an impressively efficient system using only pens and paper to oversee for dozens of well-organized squads who deliver water and food, refill prescriptions, assist the National Guard and meet other needs all across Hoboken.
I cannot suppress my pride in the Stevens student body for their generosity and philanthropy during the hurricane recovery. They are making a real difference in Hoboken every single day and stepping up as leaders in the community.
I cannot wait for my next assignment.