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On the Bright Side

March 6, 2013

Volunteers spend spring break helping Superstorm Sandy victims

Scores of students from SUNY Delhi are spending their semester break this week not on boozy tropical beaches, but in wrecked houses and moldy basements much closer to home.

In the past six months, the college has sent “about 100, maybe a bit more than 100” students and faculty to the downstate region and New Jersey to help residents rebuild in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, said Elizabeth Sova, coordinator for the O’Connor Center for Community Engagement, which is the campus’ clearinghouse for volunteer efforts.

Students and faculty are helping with dune restoration in Monmouth County, N.J., mold abatement in Brooklyn and rebuilding in Breezy Point, Queens, which was devastated first by the storm and then by a fire that destroyed about 125 houses because the storm damage blocked firefighters from reaching the isolated enclave.

The Breezy Point students and faculty come from the college’s Building Technologies program.

“Everything we’ve learned in school, we’re putting into practice,” said James Erwin, a fourth-year student from Downsville who is graduating in May.

“The people are great,” he said by phone Tuesday from the Queens enclave. “They’re wonderful and so happy for us to be down here. It just makes you feel good to help out somebody in need.”

The group is led by Peter Campbell, an instructor in refrigeration and air conditioning, but also an experienced manager and an adviser for the Delhi College Interfaith Council.

“These kids aren’t making a nickel on this,” he said by phone from the Queens neighborhood. “They’re gaining a lot of experience. We’ve gotta give it back. They’re donating their time while their friends are going somewhere else where it’s warm, and the sun is shining.”

“Right at the moment at Breezy Point, we’ve got about a dozen students,” he added. He said about 20 students will have spent at least a day at the site before the week is out.

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