Waiting out the storm in various safe places, a few student leaders saw the destruction Sandy wreaked on Staten Island and in other areas and had the same impulse: We want to help.
Within days, a new organization was born: Wagner Cares. Starting with a $5,000 seed grant from the College, it had mobilized 187 volunteers to work on 43 projects within two weeks of the storm. And that's just the beginning.
Gregory Balaes '13, Student Government Association president, and Kate Schaefer '15, SGA's vice president for community service, started brainstorming about organizing the Wagner response to Sandy's destruction as soon as they could get in touch with each other after the storm.
“As a native Staten Islander, it was terrible seeing places I have known all my life turn to ruins overnight,” says Balaes.
Since last summer, Schaefer had been thinking about a way that the SGA could channel students' community service efforts into a single focus. Balaes also knew that Wagner students would want to help, and that they could achieve more by working in a coordinated way.
“We quickly decided that we were going to take an active role in shaping how Wagner was going to respond to this,” Schaefer says. “Greg had the idea of naming it Wagner Cares, and I agreed that it could all beautifully work together.”
Judy Betz '13, president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, quickly joined the cause. Along with her softball teammates, she had stayed on campus during the storm. After seeing news images of the storm's destruction on Staten Island, she collected donations in the residence halls and brought them to a shelter. As soon as she found out about Balaes and Schaefer's work, she joined the Wagner Cares team.
With the support of the College administration, they created and launched a website where people who are in need can request help, and where volunteers can sign up for projects.
Students, faculty, and staff have been helping with relief work at various sites on Staten Island. Wagner Cares is collecting cleaning supplies, food, clothing, and other items; sending volunteers to sort donations received by the Salvation Army and emergency shelters; and distributing goods in devastated neighborhoods. Sports teams have helped flooded homeowners with cleanup and have collected donations at athletic events; student organizations have raised funds; and the Wagner College Choir held a benefit concert.
Wagner Cares is accepting donations. Funds raised will be used to facilitate the recovery and rebuilding efforts, such as purchasing needed supplies and providing transportation for Wagner Cares volunteers to damaged community sites.