ESU Students Impact Hurricane Help And Are Recognized for their Volunteerism
It’s one thing to see photos and film footage of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy at the Jersey Shore. It’s quite another to be in the middle of it, shoveling a path in neck-high sand so a family can get into their storm-ravaged house.
More than a dozen Sigma Pi fraternity brothers at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania learned the difference first-hand when they spent two weekends last fall clearing storm debris from parks in Manasquan and Union Beach, N.J., and helping residents remove ruined furnishings from their homes and yards.
For their efforts, Sigma Pi won the Amy Vojta Impact Award for Service and Philanthropy at the Northeast Greek Leadership Association Conference in Hartford, Conn., which ran Feb. 21-24, attracting 900 students representing scores of schools from Maine to Washington, D.C.
The devastation that ESU’s Sigma Pi brothers saw during their relief work was both immense and personal. Kevin Skilton and seven fraternity brothers helped a retired police officer in Union Beach who couldn’t get into his home because it was surrounded by mountains of debris.
“We were very focused on the task once we saw how bad it was,” said Skilton, who is also vice president of the Interfraternity Council at ESU. “It took seven of us to remove a telephone pole from his yard.”
They also recovered a wedding album which had been swept away in the storm and were able to return it to a family down the street.
Working in Manasquan, Frank Bricker led a group of fraternity brothers who did part-demolition, part-sanitation work and a whole lot of digging. After removing storm debris from parks and beaches, they went house to house helping residents remove their water-soaked cabinets and ruined belongings.
“I think we thought we were prepared until we actually saw it,” Bricker said. “Two ladies — they had sand up to their window in their front yard. We shoveled a pathway for them.”
Bricker’s family had spent many summers on beaches there, just a stone’s throw from the town of Brick, where they live. In the days right after Sandy hit, he told his fraternity brothers of his plans to go help with relief work, and it wasn’t hard to convince them to pitch in.
Before going, Sigma Pi joined with the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority to do a coin-drop fundraiser at ESU, which raised $457 for the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund.
Bricker’s mother, Nancy, helped the fraternity brothers sign up for a work detail with a relief organization and put the young men up in the family’s home, driving them from work site to work site.
In addition to Bricker and Skilton, ESU Sigma Pi brothers taking part were: Jeff Martino, Kevin Stumpf, Dave Reciniello, Greg Moore, Shane O’Conner, Kyle Berwick, Mike Eccleston, Michael Antorino, Anthony Albanese, Ryan Cleary, Joseph Cuevas, Devon Whittaker and Ryan Yusella.
Nancy Bricker said she was struck by how respectful the Sigma Pi brothers were of the feelings of homeowners who had lost so much.
“The compassion these boys shared by their actions and words with Sandy victims made me speechless,” she said. “They impressed and touched all they met. The families they assisted were so very grateful for all they gave.”
When the weather gets better, Sigma Pi plans to return for more relief work in the spring.