Student Helps Storm Victims in Her Hometown
by Leann Wilbur
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, all I could focus on was the safety of my family and friends back home in Toms River, NJ.
When television images of the destruction in NJ started pouring in, I watched as a family I knew was rescued from the flood on a plow truck. Every beach, every destroyed boardwalk, and every damaged town they showed was familiar to me. The ocean had engulfed the barrier island closest to my home, ruined the bridges, and flipped over houses or pushed them into the streets. My first reaction was disbelief, the feel-ing you get when someone passes away, and I was desperate to know if my friends and family were safe.
I knew that the only way I’d be able to focus on my studies here in Baltimore was if I did something to help. I couldn’t physically help in my hometown, so I figured the next best thing was to reach out to the Hopkins community to donate items to those who lost so much. So with the help of our Student Government Association (SGA), I started a collection drive.
Student Affairs staff helped distribute and post fliers, and professors displayed the information before classes. Mini-drives were held across campus, at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and even by some local businesses. There were two weeks to collect donations before I drove home for Thanksgiving weekend, when I planned to take the supplies to local shelters and donation centers. Little did I know how much everyone would contribute!
Each day I would empty the bins and sort the items, storing them in the Student House at the School of Nursing. The community donated everything from pet items to non-perishable food to shoes and bedding. Adam’s Church even sorted and labeled men’s and woman’s toiletry bags for individuals that contained deodorant, toothbrushes, shaving cream/razor, toothpaste, and a fresh pair of socks. I was amazed. At the end of the two weeks, we had collected enough to make two trips to New Jersey with a large cargo van filled to the max.
The best part was going home to donate the items and seeing the number of people who volunteered their time and energy to sort the items, deliver them to families in need, and even help with the physical work of gutting houses and helping those in the community. As I delivered the items, people kept asking me, “Where are these coming from?” I told them about our collection drives, and their first response was always “Did you drive all of this straight from Maryland?!” They were so thankful and were impressed to hear that Johns Hopkins was involved. Their surprised and grateful faces made each trip worth it, tenfold.