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Bringing families together: Students provide Hurricane Sandy relief

Posted: Feb 06, 2013

2013-02-06 Sandy group clean up

Olivet students worked together to clear debris left in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

2013 02-06 Sandy flags

A couple stopped by to thank students who were picking up flags from a veteran memorial that had been strewn about by the storm. “It was great that something so small could mean so much," said sophomore Sarah High.

Battered and torn American flags sat next to gravestones in a cemetery in Cape May, N.J. Pieces of roof and tree branches cluttered the area. All of America witnessed the devastation of Hurricane Sandy as it brought destruction to the east coast. 

But a group of 34 from Olivet Nazarene University heard the call. They quickly became a family while bringing families back together through their Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.

Gutting out moldy houses, cleaning a cemetery and gathering the trash from under a boardwalk were a few of the tasks this group accomplished during a recent trip to the east coast. The community of Cape May, N.J., welcomed them with open arms and supplied them with the equipment necessary to turn their houses back into homes.

The group stayed at a holiness campground that the Seashore Community Church of the Nazarene provided. Every morning, they would wake up, split into three groups and work at their designated areas.

Sophomore Emily Fernette worked with the group that gutted out houses with mold damage from the hurricane. Her group called themselves team M.O.L.D.Y (missions, organization, leadership, determination, yes!). Their enthusiasm while working allowed them to reach out to the people they were helping, as well as form camaraderie among themselves.

"My favorite part was probably seeing the faces of the people from the houses we were working at,” Fernette said. “They were just so thankful that all of us from Olivet came to help them because the things that we were doing were things that they couldn’t afford to do.”

Another group helped Seashore Community Church of the Nazarene with their outreach programs and cleaned up a cemetery that served as a memorial for World War II veterans. The American flags that were scattered along the property were picked up with care, restoring respect and honor for the veterans they represented.

"A couple came up to site. We were able to talk to them," sophomore Sarah High said. “It was great that something so small could mean so much."

Some students witnessed a tent city in New Jersey, an entire community of people living in make-shift shelters. The area existed before the hurricane, but the storm left many more people among the homeless taking refuge in this “city.”

"We spoke to homeless people, talked to them and gave them food. They were really appreciative of it. They were open to us and some of them had really sad stories,” freshman Katarena Shiner said.

Lastly, the group went to Wildwood, N.J. and cleaned up the boardwalk. Wildwood is a huge tourist area that brings in a lot of business to the city.

Overall, the trip was a success. The stories of the homeless are filled with hope. The group of diverse students who were brought together have become a family. With the help of the team leaders, Jonathan and Kate Burkey and Brandon Davey, the students found new lasting friends and a bigger heart for missions.

The School that would later be known as "Olivet Nazarene University" was founded with 36 students in a one-room schoolhouse near Georgetown, Ill.