While much of the United States spent Thanksgiving with family and loved ones, several students from Western Michigan University’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes spent theirs helping families in New Jersey devastated by Hurricane Sandy.
One of the students that made the trip was Bridgette Stone. She said that it was due in part to support from the community that the group was able to go and help out.
“I know there’s a lot of places that supported what we were doing, gave us a lot of tools to bring…a lot of donations,” said Stone. “We didn’t have to pay anything besides $20 for gas and then to pay for meals there and back.”
Stone said that a lot of the work they did while in New Jersey was tearing down drywall that had been damaged by the storm as well as removing trees and other debris that had fallen thanks to Sandy. There was one job however that was different from the rest.
“The last day that we were there we had to clean out a crawl space because it had been flooded,” said Stone. “It was the nastiest thing I’ve ever done before because the sewage line had seeped into it.”
The experience in the crawl space did not sour Stone on volunteer work however. She said that the group was able to help about 12 families. Being able to speak with the families let Stone know just how appreciative they were. She said not only would she gladly do something like this again, but is in fact planning on spending her spring break helping children with terminal illnesses in Memphis, Tenn.
The volunteer trip was organized by Stone’s fellow WMU student, Mitch Zajac. Zajac said that when he first saw the devastation on the East Coast he was ready to pack up and go start helping right away. Instead he thought a better idea would be to get a group together and go out there over the Thanksgiving weekend.
Zajac said that while a lot of the work they did didn’t seem like much to them, if you were to look at it from the perspective of the people they were helping it would seem like a much bigger deal. An example of this was when they spent about five hours removing a tree from a yard for a family that was not capable of doing so themselves.
“There’s absolutely no way that that tree would have got taken care of, you know, had we not been there, or somebody like us not been there, to volunteer the time,” said Zajac.
Zajac plans on joining larger groups in the future and is going to North Carolina in March for disaster relief training.
Both Zajac and Stone said that New Jersey was not exactly what they thought it would be like based on watching MTV.
“When we’re here, you know, we see Jersey Shore on TV, and all these other things, you’re kind of separated from it…it’s like Hollywood almost, you know, but when you get there and you go door to door and see the people that were affected by this storm it shows you that they’re just like us.” said Zajac.