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Colby-Sawyer Helps Rebuild Coney Island After Sandy

While most college students spent their spring breaks relaxing, 14 Colby-Sawyer students and three staff members spent the week of March 10-16 breathing life back into the colorful but collapsed community of Coney Island, N.Y.

Superstorm Sandy's wind and rain affected the entire Eastern Seaboard and left Coney Island, a Brooklyn community home to 34,500 people known for its treasured amusement parks and seaside resorts, in a state of destruction.

Five-foot floods buried the boardwalk in almost two feet of sand, and more than 10,000 residences and businesses were affected by the storm.

The community was in search of restoration, and Colby-Sawyer was there to lend helping hands.

Parent and Community Partnerships Coordinator and adviser to the Community Service Club Julie Crisafi Lynch worked with Citi Impact to partner with Poured Out, a nonprofit organization that aids communities struck by natural disasters. Assigned to the community of Coney Island but housed in a church in Queens, the Colby-Sawyer crew traveled each morning to their work sites to tear down walls and ceilings that had been destroyed by Sandy's floods and remove mold that had accumulated.

“We did some rebuilding, painting and sanding. Then we helped a couple of mission groups move and restock food pantries,” says Lynch.

Not only did the Colby-Sawyer squad help cleanup local businesses, but it also assisted families.

“The most enjoyable part of the trip was helping a family whose basement was destroyed,” said Shannen Hartmann '14. “They were so sweet and treated us like family. They cooked us a meal and worked alongside us to repair the damage. It really felt amazing to know that we had impacted their lives in a positive way while they were going through such a rough time.”

The students' service experience was eye opening; they learned from one another and created strong bonds that will endure along with their sense of accomplishment.

“A lot of the students didn't know each other before the trip, and now I see them together at lunch and hanging out,” says Lynch.

This was the first alternative spring break trip the college has taken in more than five years, but the Community Service Club is already brainstorming about locations for next March.

-by Lauren Hygom '13