Buffalo, NY – Just this past December, several students and staff members of the D'Youville College community spent a week lending a hand to help rebuild and restore New Orleans following the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
From December 10 through December 16, 2016 – 34 students, current and former student-athletes, D'Youville employees and staff members were part of the fourteenth annual Lending A Hand trip in New Orleans. The trip included the reclamation and cleanup of the Big Marsh National Wildlife Refuge, the packing, sorting and checking of food for those in need at the Harvest Food Bank, and rebuilding the homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina as part of the Youth Rebuilding New Orleans.
Rev. Jan Mahle of the Campus Ministry Department coordinated the trip and was assisted by Debbie Owens, College Center Director/Event Services Coordinator. Faculty Athletic Representative Joe Kabacinski made the trip and worked along with the other members of D'Youville in their mission to give back. He talked about the D'Youville Lend A Hand motto and what the trip meant.
"The DYC Lending A Hand motto is St. Marguerite D'Youville's credo, 'We never refuse to serve'," said Kabacinski. "The trip is considered 'volunteerism' – that is, volunteering in the New Orleans' community and also contributing to the community as tourists and supporting local businesses. The recent trip was a life-changing experience for everyone."
The first day of the trip was spent at the Bayou Savage National Wildlife Refuge where the group spent the day cleaning up garbage along Lake Pontchartrain and reclaiming the area from pollution. Day two was spent packaging, sorting and checking 13,700 pounds of food for the Second Harvest Food Bank.
For the third and fourth days of the trip, the group worked with Youth Rebuilding New Orleans. The first of the two days was spent with APEX Youth Center, an organization that serves the children of the community via programs and services. APEX had been in the process of moving and the Lending A Hand team assisted in moving and organizing supplies.
On their second day with Youth Rebuilding New Orleans, the group helped rebuild homes in the area. Homes in which they helped build by moving drywall, hang hurricane straps to secure, caulk and paint would be sold to teachers to help bring stability and impact the community.
Sisters and senior members of the women's crew team Emily and Erin Sliwowski were two of the four active D'Youville student-athletes on the trip. They each recalled what they learned and took away from their time spent in New Orleans.
"This opportunity is one I think all students should experience," said Erin. "The positive impact our team was able to make for a community in need is one that will change the lives of so many individuals. You truly do not realize how big of an impact you are making and it is amazing how much all 28 of us were able to accomplish."
"This opportunity not only allowed me to help a community in need but also allowed me to meet new people and develop relationships that I would not have formed without this experience," said Emily.
Beginning two years prior to Hurricane Katrina, students and student-athletes from D'Youville work together to give back to the New Orleans community through Lending A Hand. Throughout the year, the students and student-athletes work to plan and fundraise in order to take the trip.
In total, four current student-athletes and eight former student-athletes took this year's trip. The athletes include:
Women's Crew – Emily Sliwowksi, Erin Sliwowski and Marissa Restivo
Women's Volleyball – Kendyll Smith
Women's Cross Country – Katelyn Buck and Samantha Cohen
Softball – Jessica Banning
Women's Volleyball – Cortlynn Caronia and Kaitlyn Grimm
Women's Crew – Devin Dalton
Women's Soccer – Aimee Pfuntner
Men's Soccer – Sean Lauer