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STJ and Superstorm Sandy

One week after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the New York metropolitan area, Rafael Serrano Rivera, Campus Minister, led a team of St. John’s student volunteers to help victims of the storm begin to pick up the pieces of their lives.

“On Monday, when we came back to campus, we wanted to do something to help,” said Rivera, who received a call from Pamela G. Shea-Byrnes, Vice President for Campus Ministry and University Events. “Pam told me that St. Thomas More Church in Rockaway Point had food and clothes that were donated, but no way of getting them to the victims of the storm.”

Knowing that Rockaway Point and nearby Breezy Point were among the hardest hit neighborhoods in New York City, Rivera quickly assembled a team of eight students and four Campus Ministry graduate assistants to mobilize and lend whatever assistance they could.

“We rented a school bus and drove down there to see what we could do,” Rivera said. Upon arrival, they found a basketball court full of much-needed food and clothing. “We loaded up the bus with some of the donated supplies and drove over to St. Mary Star of the Sea and St. Gertrude Parish in Far Rockaway,” he said. “When we got there, we found huge lines of people who just wanted to get warm and get something to eat.”

Throughout the day, the student volunteers were proactive in helping the victims of the storm. “There was such a great dynamic in the group and the volunteers were so eager to help,” he said. “They really showed that the more difficult the recovery is, the more courage and love we show for each other.”

Aware that the region faces a long road to recovery, the University community is also stepping up to assist those in need. On Saturday, Ketienne Telemaque, Residence Minister for Vincentian Service and Justice, will lead Team RV to the Rockaways, providing aid to those who so desperately require it.

“When people are the most vulnerable, we come together to help each other,” said Rivera, who saw firsthand how disaster can bring out the best in people. “All our differences are put aside and the unity of brotherhood and sisterhood comes alive.”

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