Being located on the East Coast and at such a close proximity to states such as New Jersey and New York, it’s only natural that the Villanova community was also affected by Hurricane Sandy’s devastation and wanted to do whatever was possible to help the relief effort.
In early November, just after the tragic hurricane, Barbara Wall, vice president for Mission and Ministry, Tim O’Connell of Campus Ministry, Irene King, director of the Center for Service and Social Justice, as well as Father Joseph Mostardi, O.S.A., director of the Center for Worship, each contributed to planning a response to the vast devastation.
After just a few days of planning, it was decided that Mostardi would travel with a small group to Staten Island, N.Y. Tim O’Connell organized the trip that would be working with Reverend Terry Troia, a pastor as well as the director of a relief organization titled Project Hospitality.
Project Hospitality has been working with needy families in Staten Island for roughly 20 years.
Troia had been a good friend of Mostardi, who himself was previously a resident of Staten Island for 15 years, as well as a pastor of an Augustinian parish there for seven years.
Around 10:15 a.m. on Nov. 17, a group that included one graduate student, one University alum and 11 undergraduate students arrived on Staten Island with Mostardi.
“Reverend Troia had two 18-foot box trucks that were literally packed with donations of clothing and food, but were very disorganized,” Mostardi said. “In order for things to be distributed to needy families, they needed to be unpacked, sorted, re-boxed, marked and then placed in a storage container so that they would be kept safe and dry until that time when the distribution process would take place.”
Mostardi explained that volunteers packed over 250 boxes filled with all kinds of new or used clothing, as well as bedding for both children and adults.
The group also assisted with putting half of a truck of food into a food pantry for safe keeping.
After a long day, the work was completed for Project Hospitality at about 5 p.m. Then, Troia asked the University group for a favor. The group went out and purchased a bed for a needy man who had lost everything and found new housing, but with no bed to sleep in.
“The students delivered it,” Mostardi said. “It was a little complicated—we tied the bed to the top of the van. We bought the bed with moneys from the All Saints collection. It was a small contribution from the Villanova community.”
The group returned to campus at about 9:30 p.m. Since the work was done on the North Shore of Staten Island, where most of the recovery efforts took place, the group did not see much of the devastated South Shore of Staten Island.
“We were going to tour the area but the project took so long that we didn’t really have time and then it got dark,” Mostardi said. “I didn’t want us to come across as tourists just looking at the devastation.”
Though the area served by the group escaped extreme devastation, it was obvious to the volunteer that could parts of the island had been badly damaged by the storm and had yet to recover.
“Its the incredible power Mother Nature has and that we have no control over those kinds of things,” Mostardi said. “But what we do have control over is how we respond to those things—through acts of service that students are willing to do and the amount of things that were donated.”
A huge number of donations were collected and Mostardi estimated that about 75% percent of the items were brand new.
“The quantity of items we were able to reorganize was incredible,” Mostardi said. “Even though it wasn’t glamorous work, it was necessary work,” he continued.
The trip exemplified how much help many on the East Coast need.
More is needed than just cleaning up debris, which most volunteers cannot assist with because it requires heavy machinery.
Students got involved with this trip through an email chain—mostly students who work with Habitat for Humanity or other regular service efforts the University participates in.
“Anyone who’s interested in helping with the relief effort should contact the Center for Service in Campus Ministry to be put on the mailing list for future projects that we may be invited to participate in,” Mostardi said.