Photos by Will Dempsey
Natalie Kfoury – Co-Editor-in-Chief
Over President’s Day Weekend, a group of 10 Lasell Resident Assistants traveled to the New Jersey seacoast for three days where they aided relief efforts. The group, led and organized by Residential Life Area Coordinator Patricia “Trish” Moran and junior Kevin Moloney, worked with AmeriCorps volunteers and Sister Jean’s Soup Kitchen, a hunger relief agency in New Jersey.
Students Antonio Nesbitt, Ashley Clary, Will Dempsey, Kristen Silvia, Steve Saluti, Alex Ferri, Holly Irvin, Rebecca Bissonnette, and Danielle Fortin also took part in the relief trip. Through their work, they became a close-knit group with the common goal of helping others.
“I would say that I came back to Lasell with a new perspective on the [affected] area,” Moloney said. “I also established a firm belief that the most powerful thing in this world is seeing people come together to help random strangers in need – simply because it’s the right thing to do.”
“It’s something that should happen more often really,” Moloney said.
The plans for the trip began in November, when Moloney requested Moran be the staff chaperone. The two spent a great deal of time and energy in securing a host organization and a place to stay, which both proved to be challenging. They originally wanted to go in January during winter break, but the plans did not come through until early January, leaving President’s Day Weekend as the only option.
“I believe that trips such as these are among the most formative experiences one can have in college and that’s why I was more than happy to help lead,” said Moran. “Even a three-day trip such as this can have a lasting effect on students, ideally cultivating a lifelong desire to help others.”
The group stayed at a community center in Brigantine, N.J. and did much of their volunteer work in Seaside Heights and Atlantic City. The group helped muck out houses with shovels and with direct service at shelters.
Moran said she was surprised at what she saw because the storm did not become truly real to her until she and the others spoke to people who lived through it and saw sites that had been completely destroyed. Irvin spoke to a man at Sister Jean’s Kitchen who had lost his job, car, and home and had to walk seven miles just to get a meal.
“I remember talking to local residents who were still coming to a makeshift community center in a trailer for food,” Moran said. “A lot of these residents really had lost everything in terms of property and they had to face difficult decisions regarding whether or not to rebuild or leave the area.”
Moloney was more prepared for what he would see on the trip after doing a similar relief trip to New Orleans last year.
“Hurricanes have a lasting impact,” Moloney said. “You don’t just completely clean up and recover what was lost so easily.”
One site the group worked on was on a small building right on the beach. The building was so buried in sand that parts of it came up to Moloney’s hip. He is 6’4” tall.
“We dug up so many miscellaneous items that had once helped give this building a personality,” Moloney said, “It was the life of the shore, and now it’s buried in sand with just about nothing left over to be salvaged.”
After two days of working, the group had uncovered most of the sand, which was a good, but bittersweet, feeling for those involved, as they knew they had made an impact.
“We were all still heartbroken to know that this was just one of far too many similar stories in this region, and that the kind of work we did over the weekend was needed all over New York and New Jersey,” said Moloney.
Moloney and Moran look forward to organizing more service trips such as this one to either continue helping relief efforts in the same area or to help out in other areas.
“[Trips such as this] should be an affirmation that students really can leave Lasell making a huge impact,” said Moran. “I hope that you all feel empowered to find something you’re passionate about and work on it here.”