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RPI RELIEF volunteers have been deployed throughout the region.

Two students in RPI Ambulance traveled to Greene County to help.

Members of Pi Kappa Alpha helped the owner of Jose Malone’s restaurant clean up after the storm.


Rensselaer Community Works To Support Area Hurricane Victims

Last month, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee left extensive damage in the Capital Region, especially along creeks and river beds. In the after-math, several communities have been trying to pick up the pieces while dealing with the impact of extreme flooding, rainfall, and power outages.

To assist, a band of helpers from the Rensselaer campus have been
engaged in ongoing volunteer efforts.

Localities along the Schoharie Creek, the Poestenkill, Mohawk and Hudson rivers, and other waterways suffered damage to both infrastructure and personal property. In the weeks following the storms, many of the communities continue to be vulnerable, not only to weather impacts on the already saturated landscape, but also to public health concerns brought on by mold, mildew, and bacteria growing across the flood-ravaged areas.

“The devastation caused by Hurricane Irene will continue to have a profound impact on our neighbors and this region for some time to come,” said Cynthia Smith ’96, assistant dean of students and director of pipeline initiatives and partnerships. “Individuals who have embraced the ‘RPI RELIEF — Hurricane Irene’ initiative have been met in all the storm-damaged areas they have visited with heartfelt gratitude and
appreciation by neighbors who are persevering to save and rebuild their communities.”

Smith noted that within days of the storm, more than 100 students, faculty, staff, alumni, student organizations, fraternities, and community members rolled up their sleeves to assist in a series of clean-up efforts in the areas of Schoharie, Prattsville, Middleburgh, and Poestenkill. Volunteer efforts will continue throughout the fall semester.

The RPI RELIEF program is focused on raising awareness and funds, as well as coordinating volunteer initiatives when disaster strikes an area. Current plans include raising funds for the American Red Cross of Northeastern New York and the Regional Farm and Food Project to assist victims of flooding throughout the Capital Region, and the collection of items to assist in clean-up projects. To further support the projects, the Office of the President has provided financial support by making a $10,000 donation. The contribution will address the cost of the volunteer efforts in the communities impacted by the floods (including transportation and safety items for the student, staff, and faculty volunteers). Any remaining dollars will be contributed to match funds raised for the supported causes.

“I have a friend who lives in Schoharie, and it was after only after hearing from them that I truly got a sense of the impact of Hurricane Irene,” said Laura Easterling, a native of Ventura, Calif., and a junior majoring in environmental science. “There is a great need for community service, and I feel that any limited time that I have is better spent helping residents who have been impacted. It’s very inspiring to see the changes taking place in these communities and in people’s lives,” she said.

Easterling is one of several students taking the lead to coordinate volunteer efforts. Other students include: Tyler Cassetta-Frey, Josh Klemaszewski, Katie Grabowski, and Victoria Song. The growing list of student groups include the Student Senate, the American Red Cross Club, the Class of 2013, Community Advocates, the Community Service Committee, Alpha Phi Omega, and members of Alpha Chi Rho, as well as members of the Navy Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (NROTC) program.

In response to direct requests from the community, there are many stories to tell. For example, fraternity members from Pi Kappa Alpha, along with Delta Phi, worked in several shifts to help the owners of Jose Malone’s, a Mexican-Irish restaurant located in downtown Troy, who expressed “great appreciation” for their help.

In addition, shortly after the storm, two members of RPI Ambulance made their way to the Greene County Emergency Operations Center following a request for ambulance and fire department units to relieve their crews, according to Matthew Willett, captain of RPI Ambulance. Willett noted that it was a “privilege to be able to assist the town in their time of need.”

On Sept. 25, a group of Rensselaer volunteers spent much of the day in the town of Poestenkill, one of the affected areas in Rensselaer County. Following the visit, Poestenkill Town Supervisor Dom Jacangelo expressed his sincere thanks for the group’s efforts. “I can’t tell you how many great comments I had from people from around town who sincerely appreciated the effort that RPI and your students made,” said Jacangelo. “On behalf of the entire town .... Thank you very much!”

For more information about ongoing RPI Relief efforts to support Hurricane Irene victims, visit

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 5, Number 15, October 7, 2011
©2011 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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