Queens Courier Persons of the Year honoree: York College students

When Sandy left thousands of people displaced, York College in Jamaica acted as one of the biggest shelters following the storm. Hundreds of York students lent a helping hand, and then some.

"We started to realize that there is power in numbers," said Daniele Fallon, an occupational therapy (OT) student who worked with evacuees.

And the numbers grew. Roughly 130 students from the OT department, and many more from different campus organizations, alumni and surrounding schools, worked around the clock with storm victims for two straight weeks. They were provided food, clothes and most importantly, shelter.

Dr. Jean Phelps, director of student activities, oversaw a lot of the work that was being done, including an extensive collection of donations and caring for displaced children.

Phelps recalled how one evacuee told her, "You could feel the care [at York], you could feel the love. Everybody treated you with such dignity and respect."

"[The students] really went the extra mile," said Phelps.

The OT department collected funds reaching over $1,000 and used the money to purchase new jackets, toiletries and anything else that their guests needed.

"We were trying to tap into the unmet needs of individual people," said Fallon.

York's "Helping Hands" club collected items for evacuees, and also for York students that were affected by the storm. The Seek Student Society also assisted in collecting and distributing items, along with donating a significant amount of their time.

With Sandy hitting just before Halloween, the students organized a party for the kids, complete with costumes and trick-or-treating. They also created a "fun room" for the kids where they had movies playing around the clock and, for a few hours each day, other activities such as face painting.

After York's two-week stint as home for over 1,000 evacuees, students continued to work to provide for those who lost everything. They continued to collect donations, both goods and money, and personally delivered them to the Rockaways.

"Boxes just kept coming in," said Fallon. "It's always nice to see that there are people just willing to jump in and help."

"I have a feeling that people will remember this experience," she added. "The next disaster that strikes within our community, you can see that it just takes a few people to get the ball rolling."

This article has been re-printed with the permission of The Queens Courier

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