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Superstorm Sandy victims aided by University of Redlands students

April 4, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Superstorm Sandy cut a path of devastation across the East Coast. Months later, many areas are still a disaster zone, and it's the last place you might expect to find college students on spring break.

"You hear all the stories about going to Mexico, or going to Ft. Lauderdale; I was thinking about it and I was like, I can really go to New York and make a difference," said Frankie Garrison.

Garrison was among 20 University of Redlands students who signed up to spend their spring break aiding in the recovery. The group volunteered with Habitat for Humanity to help rebuild the community of Breezy Point, N.Y. It was a job that had them mucking out moldy homes and swinging hammers.

Intense, hard and long hours are exactly what they wanted when they chose to go.

"We were looking at actually going to an Indian reservation and then Hurricane Sandy happened, and so many of the students approached me and said, 'We want to go, we want to do this.' So in a sense they chose the destination," said Erin Sanborn, director of Community Service Learning.

Students not only helped rebuild homes, they also helped retrieve sentimental items. In the home of one Sept. 11 survivor, they retrieved an entire album of quarters.

"Ironically, one of the quarters we couldn't find was the California quarter. So I've taken my California quarter out of my binder at home and we're going to be sending it to him," said Garrison.

After a week in which they logged 800 hours, they left the community a little better off than when they found it.

"I think in the end we learned so much more from them, especially seeing their resilience," said Luan Nguyen-Tran.

But the students know the recovery effort is far from finished.

"There is still so much and there are still volunteer groups going just to do the same work that we were doing, and eventually it will get there but it will take a long time," said Kara Schwartz.


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