Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Rebuilding Staten Island: Habitat for Humanity Making a Difference

One year ago, Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of Staten Island.  Within days after the storm made landfall , the first meeting of the nascent chapter of Habitat for Humanity at the College of Staten Island was held.  The chapter, officially chartered in Spring 2013, was started by a group of motivated students, including Verrazano honors students, who wanted to make a difference in the local community.  Below, one of the founding members of the club shares how the CSI Habitat for Humanity chapter assisted with the recovery efforts on Staten Island this past summer.   

My name is Francesca Messina, and I am a Verrazano honors student in the Class of 2015.  I'm completing the Nursing Associate’s Degree Program at the College of Staten Island this semester and will move on to the BS in Nursing in the spring. I am the Founder and President of the Habitat for Humanity Club at CSI along with Victoria Wong (Vice President, Verrazano '16), Thomas Campisi (Treasurer), and Brett Birkbeck (Publicist/Secretary, Verrazano '16). This is a new club that was started last semester (Spring 2013) at the College of Staten Island.

Thomas Campisi (Treasurer of CSI Habitat for Humanity) and Tony Saldana (construction worker for event).
For two weeks in July (Monday, July 8th, 2013 – Friday, July 19th, 2013), the Habitat for Humanity CSI Chapter linked up with Petrides High School, Tufts University Lacrosse Team, and Royal Coffee, New York, Inc., to help build and repair damaged houses from Hurricane Sandy on Staten Island in Midland Beach.  We helped a total of 21 different homes. 

Michael Blyth, a teacher at Petrides High School, organized the Petrides Habitat for Humanity Chapter in 2010 and organized this two-week event in Midland Beach.  Other members of the Petrides staff, Carlos and Antonio Rodriquez, were also part of the volunteer team.  The sponsors included Petrides High School, the Tufts University Lacross Team, and Fred and James Schoenhut, owners of Royal Coffee New York, Inc. - a specialty coffee importing company.  Through their donations, the volunteer work in Midland Beach was possible.

Brett Birkbeck (Secretary/Publicist for CSI Habitat for Humanity) helping out.

One person that we helped was Thea Friscia.  Every day the volunteers would meet together at 8:00 am at Thea's home.  Miss Thea allowed the team to store tools and supplies.  We would hear about our assignments, delegate work to specific groups, and then set out in the neighborhood to start our day of work.  At noon, we ate lunch that was donated by various people we helped or people that were volunteering with us.  We would discuss what we had done, how far we had gotten, and what was left to work on.  After lunch, we went back to work until 4:00 pm.

Work that the team did included installing drywall and taping, installing new sidewalks, waterproofing damaged basements, gardening, painting, building and repairing fences, and much more.  

Some of the rebuilding team at the Closing Ceremony on Friday, July 19th, 2013.

We lived by a "code" every day that we worked.  This "code" is a quote from French Quaker missionary Stephen Grellet (1773-1855): "I shall pass through this world but once.  Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being, let me do it now.  Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."  This code was mentioned multiple times every day throughout our two weeks.  We made sure to not only live it during that time, but we ensured that we would live by it in our everyday lives.  

The work we set out to do each day, along with our "code."

This two-week event was an amazing experience and opportunity that allowed every volunteer to discover and explore his or her potential for doing good in this world.    We not only helped twenty-one different houses in Midland Beach, but we made an impact on the entire neighborhood and an impact on Staten Island.

Portrait of the team working throughout the two weeks.  This was given to Miss Thea.

Join the CSI Habitat for Humanity Chapter to discover your potential!

During our two weeks, we interviewed for the Staten Island Advance. We also interviewed for NY1 news, met with the Midland Beach Civic Association who helped coordinate the whole project, and we also met politician Lisa Giovinazzo.
Here is the link about us in the Staten Island Advance: 

Here is a picture on Lisa Giovinazzo's facebook page that shows all of us working together: 

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