Tropical Storm Lee in September left thousands of people in New York and PA homeless.
But it became personal to Kris Dumschat when he learned the Athens home of his friend and Student Government Association colleague Tom Thornton was a victim. Tom, a non-trad student and his wife have two children. They lost their home, two cars and Tom’s garage where he operated a small business.
Kris and Administrative Assistant Sandy Most immediately put out the call for help. President Loeschke made empty rooms in Pine Crest available for the family. Within hours fellow students brought in food and toys.
And then things grew.
Student Matt Guagliardo and Dave Empet from admissions joined in. Anne Lavancher and Vicki Johnson from the president’s office gave their time and skills. MU alumnus Kevin Abrams, executive director of the Northern Tier Regional Planning & Development Commission called to offer his assistance. Tioga County Commissioner Mark Hamilton volunteered his time and services.
Over 100 students attended a meeting of “The Mountie Family Recovery Effort,” created by Kris.
Kevin and Mark took over coordination efforts with the National Guard and Red Cross. Benedict’s Bus Service and EMTA donated buses to take the volunteers to Athens and parts of Sullivan County.
First Citizens Bank offered to match the financial donations and Liberty Excavators, Inc. donated cleaning supplies.
A group of students even traveled to Bloomsburg to help clear debris.
Within days, the project grew from a few students helping a friend to hundreds of people involved in a multi-county effort.
Edgard Domenech, his wife Maria from Admissions, and their two kids, coordinated a drive to collect food, clothing and water. Social Work prof Mary Daly’s intro class also helped.
In total, several thousand dollars worth of cash and goods were gathered.
You can’t put a dollar figure on the physical labor. Cleaning up after a flood is dirty, hazardous business and for people to take the time to put themselves in that situation is a huge act of generosity.
The devastation opened students’ eyes to what it’s like in the aftermath of disaster. It’s also been a learning experience for residents in those communities who now see Mansfield University as not only an institution of higher ed, but also a community of truly caring individuals.
It would be anticlimactic at this point to say I’m proud of everyone involved. But I’ll say it anyway. A large group of people who were not asked and did not have to do anything, gave of their time, energy and dollars to help people they didn’t know.
They make me proud to be a part of Mansfield University.