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Campus relief initiatives form in Hurricane Sandy’s wake

Samantha Webber/Collegian File Photo

After hearing accounts of the devastation that Hurricane Sandy caused in the mid-Atlantic states, University of Massachusetts Transit Services decided it wanted to do a busload of something about it.

Katie O’Hara, the marketing departmental assistant for Transit Services, contacted someone she knew who was working in the shelters housing storm victims and learned that what people really needed was toiletries.

“No one really thinks of deodorant, but you need it,” said O’Hara, who is spearheading the “Fill-a-Bus” campaign.

Last night, a Pioneer Valley Transit Authority bus was parked outside the Student Union for four hours with flyers taped to it detailing the items that O’Hara is hoping to collect.

At about 5 p.m., one plastic shopping bag of stuff had been dropped in the three large cardboard boxes placed on the front seats.

But with three more days left to collect products, O’Hara wasn’t concerned.

“We know people in this community pull together,” she said.

Today, the bus will be stationed outside of the Stop & Shop in Hadley from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Saturday, the bus will be outside of Whole Foods from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The location for Sunday has yet to be determined, but O’Hara is hoping it will be in the Target parking lot. If that falls through, the bus will most likely be somewhere on campus, but people should check the UMass Transit Services Twitter and Facebook pages for updates.

On the buses, volunteers will be accepting many items, including soap, toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

“We are collecting anything you can think of that you would need when moving into an apartment for the first time,” she said.

Clothing and non-perishable items are intentionally not of the list of items, as O’Hara felt that toiletries would be more useful.

In addition to collecting items from the community, O’Hara has sought out corporate sponsors, such as Target, Whole Foods and Stop & Shop. Whole Foods has committed to donating more than a pallet full of items. Ace Hardware has also made a substantial pledge, O’Hara said.

The toiletries will be driven to Ocean City Civic Center in New Jersey on Monday.

Another organization on campus that has attempted to provide some relief to Sandy’s victims is Mass Winds, a music department community service-based registered student organization. The group is hoping to collect spare change and bills in a jar to help ease the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy. A jar for change and dollar bill donations will also be located in the main office of the Music Department in the Fine Arts Center.

Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy sent out an email Nov. 6 to the student body to encourage students to donate to the Red Cross’ relief efforts.

Thus far, the Red Cross has sent 5,900 workers to help with the Sandy relief effort and has supported about 250 shelters, according to their website.

Katie Landeck can be reached at klandeck@student.umass.edu.

 

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