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Storm Relief

Student support victims of Hurricane Sandy

For most of us, Hurricane Sandy brought extended power outages, challenging commutes and the inconvenience of gas rationing. But though life has begun to return to normal, for several Seton Hall Law students and their families, and for many area residents, the storm left them without homes, warm clothing and the staples of daily life. Led by droves of students, the Seton Hall Law community is stepping up to provide support.

During the week of the storm, the law school powered down the building at the request of PSE&G. Members of the St. Thomas More Society spent that week preparing baked goods to welcome students, faculty and administration back to class on November 5. Jessica Almeida ’13 was one of several Society members who staffed the “free bake sale” table, though her car had been destroyed by flooding in nearby Harrison.

As the storm approached, Kaitlyn (Kate) Stone ’13, Courtney O’Brien ’13 and Colleen Faherty ’13 launched a Facebook page, SHU Law Students Care to facilitate sharing rides to the law school and for food, clothing and financial donations. Working with a team of classmates, they set up collection bins in the atrium for warm coats, bedding, toiletries and cleaning products, as well as gift cards and financial donations to give to classmates, local Newark residents who were evacuated to shelters, and to the Red Cross and the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund, created by the Governor’s office.

Kate Stone explained, “My family has a home on Long Beach Island and miraculously, it was not damaged. But many of our neighbors’ houses were flooded out entirely and just one town over in Holgate, not only were the houses washed away, the land they stood on is gone and now an inlet. Those families won’t be able to build there again.” She spent the week scrutinizing photos of the damage in Long Beach Island, hoping to report to friends and neighbors on the conditions of their homes and decided then to get in touch with the school’s administration and launch the Facebook page.

Courtney O’Brien was moved when she heard about both family friends and classmates’ families losing their homes and saw the images of the fire that destroyed an entire neighborhood in Breezy Point. Observing photos of the flooding at the Freedom Tower, she said, “We see photos of storm destruction in other parts of the country and it’s devastating, but it’s especially hard now, looking at the damage to places that I know well, both here and in New York City, because these are places that all of us see on a regular basis and it is hard for me to fully comprehend the extent of Sandy’s damage. It’s almost unbelievable that the pictures are real, they look like something out of a movie.”

Professor Lori Nessel, Director of the Seton Hall Law Center for Social Justice, reported that both CSJ faculty and students are exploring ways to work on pro bono cases involving storm-related claims. CSJ is coordinating with the Student Bar Association to facilitate student volunteerism, and reaching out to legal services offices, the private bar, and bar associations in New Jersey and nationally to discuss immediate and longer-term involvement to assist those in need after Hurricane Sandy. Professor Nessel explains, “Our goal is to connect students with immediate pro bono opportunities while also engaging in strategic planning to address the long-term needs of hurricane victims in New Jersey.”

To date, the students have collected nearly $2,000 and counting for the Red Cross and the dedicated relief fund. Portions of the proceeds from ticket sales for the upcoming holiday party, sponsored by the Student Bar Association, will also be donated to relief efforts. The students distributed the collected items to numerous students, their families and donation drop sites to help those in Manahawkin, Union Beach, Long Beach Island, Belmar, Manasquan and Newark. Additional donation deliveries are scheduled for Atlantic City and Staten Island. Jessica Almeida, who is also Vice President of the Seton Hall Law Sports Club, is organizing a 5K race, to take place in the spring, with proceeds going to hurricane relief. A special thanks to Seton Hall Law students Justine Abrams ’14, Alaina Caliendo ’14, Victoria Gonchar ’13, Liana Nobile ’13 and Lauren Glozzy ‘13 for their participation in these extraordinary efforts.

Gezim (Zimmy) Bajrami ’13, President of the Student Bar Association, is working closely with the student organizations to coordinate donation efforts over the coming school year. He said, “This storm, for many of us, was like nothing we have ever experienced. I’m really proud to be part of a brave community that acted so quickly to show such generous and caring support for one another. To me, it’s that kindness and the dedication to serve no matter the circumstances that truly characterizes the Seton Hall Law family.”

If you are interested in supporting our students in their hurricane relief efforts, please contact Molly Marmion Zlock, Director of Student Services, at molly.marmion@shu.edu.