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Students, College Help Hurricane Relief Efforts

SUNY Plattsburgh students are joining forces to raise funds for the American Red Cross Hurricane Sandy relief effort.

Organizations, individual students, sororities and fraternities have staged coin drives in the residence halls, are hosting tabling events at the Angell College Center and Champlain Centre Mall and will be engaging in other efforts in the coming weeks.

“A couple of days after the hurricane hit, administrators of student affairs got together to discuss the fundraising efforts we knew the student groups were involved in,” said Allison Swick-Duttine, director of fraternity/sorority life and organization development at SUNY Plattsburgh.

About 20 percent of the college’s student population hails from the regions most heavily impacted by the storm.

“We knew many students were going to try to do things for the victims,” Swick-Duttine said. “We thought we’d try to harness their efforts to make a bigger impact. I volunteered to coordinate all that.”

An initial meeting was held Nov. 1 where some 35 students, representing residence hall councils, organizations, clubs, fraternities and sororities across campus came to assist in the campaign. They discussed various fundraising options and efforts to increase involvement.

“We’re trying to get the word out to students, faculty and staff that they can all participate,” Swick-Duttine said.

Kathryn Castillo, a senior anthropology major from the Bronx, said that while she has been involved in community service and fundraising events throughout her years at SUNY Plattsburgh, Hurricane Sandy hit close to home — literally and figuratively.

“We didn’t have much damage at our home, but we were really fortunate compared to so many others. I know so many people up here who have families and friends affected in New York and New Jersey,” Castillo said. “It made me sad.”

Castillo headed an effort Saturday at the Champlain Centre Mall where she and other volunteers accepted donations for the Red Cross disaster relief.

“We’ll be selling ribbons for a donation. The Red Cross will be there as well,” she said. “It is my goal to reach the entire community. I know they want to put efforts into helping, and this is an important way. We know the Red Cross doesn’t need canned goods or clothing, and sometimes people don’t know what else to do … It’s the best way to help the Red Cross at this time.”

Senior nursing major Caitlin Leahey is familiar with volunteer activity as well. Like Castillo, she’s in a sorority and heavily involved in community service. 

“Allison reached out to our sorority and asked if we wanted to get involved. I volunteered,” Leahey said. “It’s a really good cause. I know what the Red Cross does to help during disasters, and this one affects so many of our students directly.”

Of the ideas thrown out for discussion at the meeting, Leahey said one that had potential was for a local restaurant to bring in volunteer student servers, who would collect a percentage from each meal ordered. Leahey contacted the manager at Texas Roadhouse and is waiting to hear back as to what day — most likely after Thanksgiving — the charity servers will be brought in.

For its part, the college is making sure students whose families were affected by the hurricane know there are resources available to them on campus and in the community. These include counseling services, assistance from faculty for academic challenges and possible adjustments to financial aid packages for qualified students. (Students who think they might qualify would need to discuss their circumstances with the Office of Financial Aid.) In addition, the Student Association sponsored a round-trip bus for students from the region who felt the need to go home last weekend.

For more information on the student fundraising efforts or to contribute or volunteer, contact Swick-Duttine at 518-564-4825 or email her at [email protected].

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