Students selling donuts for a fundraiser

It Doesn’t Mean It’s Over

Student organizations recognizing the need for hurricane victims and survivors come together as volunteers looking to make a difference in even one life
By: Rachel Olszewski

2300 years ago, the Greek philosopher Aristotle declared the essence of life is to serve others and to do good. Audrey Hepburn learned as she grew older that she had two hands, one for helping herself and one for helping others. Nothing gets better unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot explains Dr. Seuss. The people that fill these roles? Volunteers. In times of crisis in America and across the globe, we see them emerge.

Recent devastation left behind by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have brought out a new batch of volunteers at Penn State Wilkes-Barre including the campus’s Student Government Association, Business Club, and Students For Justice, each holding a fundraiser to help specific groups of people affected by these natural disasters.

“When it comes to our campus’s Business Club, we are big on helping others,” says club President, Susan Huey. “It may seem odd for a ‘business club,’ but in order to better understand business, you need to understand people. In doing a diaper drive, our Business Club not only helped the victims of Harvey, but also helped our club members better understand how to use business means to accomplish this goal. Additionally, businesses are socially responsible and need to have a sense of civic engagement, which is something our club aims to teach our members.”

Student Government Association (SGA) Vice President, Samantha Sepko, couldn’t agree more.

“Our campus’s SGA not only helps within our campus, but serves outside of our community as well. If a tragedy occurred in our area, we would hope to receive the same support from outside sources. Even though something so terrible happens, it doesn't mean it's over. It means it's a new beginning to start your life and build something even better. This is a crucial time for everyone to come together as one and encourage strength in unity.”

SGA choose to do a school supply drive, as this is an area often overlooked.

“Many organizations will do a drive for the necessities such as food, clothes, and house supplies,” says Sepko. “Although these are still important to collect, as an organization in an academic institution, we felt that it was imperative to think beyond the direct necessities.”

The campus’s Students For Justice (SFJ) also decided on a non-traditional group to benefit, like their counterparts in SGA and Business Club, the often overlooked first responders.

“One group that is very easy to overlook is the first responders,” explains SFJ President, Katelynn Loscig. “They not only have to deal with their own homes, families, and lives being affected, but are also putting themselves in harm’s way to help others and save lives.  Many of these individuals were working extremely long work shifts and are in need of important supplies, such as boots.  Unfortunately, at least one of the officer’s in the department which we plan on donating to, died in the line of duty.”

For all the grief and frustration the survivors and victims of the hurricanes are feeling, Penn State Wilkes-Barre students want them to know they’re not alone and there is a light at the end of the long tunnel.

“Never lose hope,” states Huey. “We are here to support you in your time of need. As long as you never lose hope, neither will we.”

SFJ Philanthropy Chair Matt Caines echoes Huey’s sentiments.

“For many of us in this part of the country, having to survive through and then cope with, the aftermath of a hurricane is hard to imagine.  Many of us, as college students, have never personally had to go through the possibility of losing our homes, family, pets, and possessions, and then be forced to essentially restart our lives.  While we may not be physically at the parts of the country where the hurricanes hit, we want to let everyone in those areas, first-responders, victims, and their families, know that you are not being forgotten and that it is important that we come together as Americans to support each other.  Whether you are in Texas, Florida, or Puerto Rico, people from across the country, like our small group here at Penn State Wilkes-Barre, are willing and eager to lend a hand in any way we can.”