Brittany Ballantyne

Social Media Director

 

Bundling up this holiday season for some just means grabbing a coat from the closet, but for those affected by Hurricane Sandy, it may not be so easy.

For this reason, students have organized a clothing drive that has been going on for the past three weeks in efforts to help those in the New York area whose homes were damaged by the hurricane.

Keene State College seniors Nicco DeMasco and Garrett Plifka made what started as an idea come to life.

“We figured out we could make a difference,” DeMasco said.

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DeMasco got the idea from a friend at home in Connecticut who did a clothing drive for Hurricane Katrina victims. Being on a college campus, he figured it was an easier way to get lots of people together for a cause.

According to Plifka, the purpose is to “better the lives of the people in the areas that got affected the most.”

The two have been collecting clothing and will be driving to New York to drop off sweatshirts, jackets, shirts and other various items to storm victims.

“People lost everything down in New York so there’s no reason that we can’t do what we can to get as much of that [clothing] as possible and then drive down to New York ourselves and deliver it,” DeMasco said.

For one donator, junior Tajh Russell, the storm was too close for comfort for his sister in Long Island, N.Y. For some time, she stayed at a hotel in New York City and finally went back to work as a school teacher.

Senior Dante Hill, also involved in the clothing drive, said one of his friends from New York had a terrible experience.

“He lost his house, cars were demolished, it was a real rough time for him so I definitely felt for him so I had to make sure I took part in it,” Hill said.

He said, “It [Sandy] hit home, especially knowing people that were affected by it.”

For Hill, the purpose of being involved in the clothing drive is “just trying to do anything you can to help out, try to make life a little bit easier for those families who lost so much.”

DeMasco and Plifka spread word of their cause through Facebook and word-of-mouth where more and more people began to reach out to them, one of whom contacted them from Arizona.

While Facebook posts got a lot of activity and response, the two also put an advertisement in the Monadnock Shopper and scheduled an announcement to be made on radio station 104.9 WYRY.

“A lot of people came up to us that said, ‘Oh this is great that someone’s finally doing it’, I guess people weren’t putting too much thought into it, like how easy this is,” DeMasco said.

He said his friends at home have also spread word about the cause and his brother, a student at University of New Hampshire hopes to get students involved at UNH as well.

DeMasco and Plifka hoped Thanksgiving break would have been a great time for students to take a look in their drawers and closets for clothing they could give up for those in need.

“That way, we can just get as many people as possible and then if we have to rent a U-Haul truck to get it all down there, we will. That’s the goal, is to fill up a U-Haul truck,” DeMasco said.

Hill explained that he also has many friends at home supporting the drive and said, “When I come back from home I should have bags and bags of clothing” prior to vacation.

On Dec. 1, DeMasco and Plifka will be driving to New York to hand deliver the clothes.

DeMasco said, “People have been great. When they give it to us they’re so appreciative, they’re smiling, everyone feels great. They feel good about themselves knowing that, especially knowing that we’re not giving it to a charity, we’re actually driving down to New York and going to deliver it to the people in person, I think that’s one of the strong motivators for people to donate.”

Plifka said that although he didn’t know anyone affected by the storm first hand, “to know that you’re helping people out that you go to school with is kind of cool too, [including] their families plus a lot of people you don’t know.”

Hill said that being involved is something to feel good about and he hopes others feel the same.

“I think the most rewarding thing is just knowing that I was able to help a little bit because everybody goes through problems and different trouble in life and this was a devastating thing that happened especially somewhere in New York that’s close to all of us,” he said.

A little goes a long way, according to Hill, who encouraged students to donate even if they didn’t have too much to offer.

But with only days left before the trip to New York, the goal appeared to have been met, according to Plifka.

Plifka said the donations would fill a U-Haul truck, which they planned to use. However, due to rental costs, the two plan to use trucks and a trailer of their own for the travel.

Plifka said he was happy with the turnout so far. Mentioning the estimated 35 bags filled with clothes, he said, “We separated them the other day. We probably have close to 20 bags of just jackets and sweatshirts, and then the other bags have clothes and mittens.”

Plifka continued,  “We mostly focused on clothing, but we also collected other stuff too because everything’s a neccessity.”

The other “neccessities” Plifka referenced were bags of perishible food items and crates of bottled water, all donated.

Hill added, “Lives are being helped a little bit. It’s indescribable, it’s just something that you’re proud of.”

Plifka and DeMasco will take donations through Friday, Nov. 30. The duo leaves for New York with all donated materials Saturday, Dec. 1.

 

 

Brittany Ballantyne can be contacted at

bballantyne@keene-equinox.com

 

 

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