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Students, alums aid Sandy relief

By Farone Rasheed, For the Daily
Published November 26, 2012

As the effects of Superstorm Sandy continue to resonate across the East Coast, the University community has continued to take an active role in the relief effort.

The impact of the storm on the University students and alumni is pervasive, as many students are from New York and New Jersey, two of the states most affected by the storm. The largest percentage of out-of-state students hails from New York. There are 1,515 students from the Empire State, and 1,053 students from New Jersey.

Though many students and faculty were safely residing in Michigan at the time of the storm, its impact was still present miles away.

Kenneth McElwain, a Japanese studies and political science professor, said though the storm did not affect him, it did impact his wife, who lives in the Murray Hill neighborhood of midtown Manhattan.

“My wife spent the week at a friend’s place in the Upper West side, as the apartment’s power was out for about a week,” McElwain explained. “She worked from the friend’s apartment, as the subways were out and taxis were impossible to find (due to lack of gasoline).”

Engineering sophomore Gulam Islam, an 18-year resident of Jackson Heights, Queens, explained that though his neighborhood was one of the lesser-affected areas of the city, the news from home was astonishing nonetheless.

“I’ve never seen New York shut down — it’s the city that never sleeps,” Islam said.

He noted that even upon his return home for Thanksgiving break, the subway system was not yet at full capacity and was still running on an adjusted schedule.

The U of M Club of New York, a chapter of the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan, which serves one of the largest alumni groups in the world, also took part in local Sandy relief efforts. On Nov. 11, the Big Apple Big Ten, a coalition of alumni in the New York City area from all of the Big Ten schools, convened to help out on Staten Island crippled by Sandy.

About 225 alumni — representing the then 12 schools of the conference, before the recent addition of University of Maryland and Rutgers University — were in attendance to ride the ferry to Staten Island together. The group included about 75 alumni volunteers from the University.

University alum Stephen Snyder served as one of the co-leaders of the volunteer effort.

“Everyone showed up wearing school apparel, like Michigan sweatshirts,” Snyder said. “It was like a Big Ten commercial.”

Once in the Dorgan Hills neighborhood of Staten Island, the volunteers committed to about 6 hours of physical labor — tearing down walls and helping with the cleanup. The following day, with the Michigan basketball team playing in the city, University alumni held a pre-game at Professor Thom’s, a local New York bar, to fundraise for the Sandy relief effort.

Back in Ann Arbor, advertising club 734 Promo, which helps promote local businesses and organizations on campus, has also shifted its focus to Sandy fundraising.

Business sophomore Josh Sperling, a project manager and one of six currently working on the venture, is organizing a “Thrift Shop” theme party — in the spirit of Seattle hip-hop artist Macklemore’s latest hit single — and will donate all profits to the American Red Cross.

Sperling has negotiated a partnership with The Necto nightclub, and expects the event to occur sometime February. They aim to attract between 500 and 800 people to the party.

“That’s really how we’ll measure our success — if we can generate the campus buzz.” Sperling said.

Sperling said besides providing an opportunity for marketing experience in a real-world setting, the project was for a cause that seemed crucial to support.

“It’s really something we can back and we can be really enthusiastic about,” Sperling said. “This is a cause we all find dear to us because we’ve all had close friends who’ve been affected by it.”


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