CONWAY Michaela Fraser of Conway said she felt helpless when she saw the havoc Hurricane Sandy caused to her hometown and parents’ home in Long Beach, N.Y.
“It’s a big challenge to see how bad it is and not being there to help,” she said.
Fraser, 23, had a way to help from here, though. As Presidential Fellow in The Miller Center at Hendrix College, she is staff coordinator of the Volunteer Action Committee.
Hendrix student Erin Murchison, chairwoman of the committee, said Fraser asked if the group could “get something together for hurricane relief, and we said, ‘Of course, we’d love to.’”
The Volunteer Action Committee is seeking donations to create supply kits that will be sent to the United Methodist Committee on Relief to take to the affected area. The kits will be sent to the United Methodist.
Ingathering 2012 conference Nov. 17 in Little Rock. A list of the needed health-kit items can be found at www.umcor.org.
Fraser said donation boxes are set up at Hendrix.
“We are focusing more on the health kits and the cleaning supplies,” she said. “They are equally valuable. Over the weekend, I heard from my hometown that one of the items needed was bleach.”
Volunteer Action Committee members are asking that financial donations be made through the American Red Cross, United Methodist Committee on Relief, Arkansas Conference, P.O. Box 3611, Little Rock, AR 72203 (memo: UMCOR Advance No. 901670, Hurricanes 2012), or by giving online at umcor.org.
The Volunteer Action Committee is also selling custom-ordered orange-and-black travel mugs bearing the Hendrix College logo and the words Hurricane Relief: Come Together Now. The mugs are $8 and are available for faculty, staff, students and “anybody who sees them,” Murchison said.
All profits will go to the Red Cross and UMCOR.
Fraser’s parents’ home, the one they moved into when she was in the ninth grade, was damaged by flooding, and their cars were totaled. Other relatives suffered damage to a home and a business.
“My parents — they’ve been really lucky,” Fraser said. “We have family in Brooklyn and farther east on Long Island. They lost power, but it was restored quickly. They’ve been doing a really amazing job of bringing food and supplies to my parents, … but there are a lot of families, especially with little kids or who had more damage than my parents did, who are really struggling with [needing] everything from clothes, because the temperature dropped, to generators to things like batteries, flashlights, heavy-duty bags and gloves.”
Heavy damage was sustained to the oceanside city of about 33,000, including to the sewer system, according to news wire reports. At one point, about 90 percent of the city’s residents were without power, the Associated Press reported.
“Once the utilities are all restored, I think people will be able to start doing the work that needs to be done,” Fraser said. “Right now, it’s the relief and really not the rebuilding that needs to be done. Hopefully, they’re rounding the corner the next couple of days.”
John Robinson, warning-coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service office in North Little Rock, said Sandy started as a hurricane, and “it morphed into a very large low-pressure system and covered so much more area than a normal hurricane would” when it hit landfall. Robinson said “the entire breadth was 1,000 miles across, so that’s much, much larger” than a hurricane. “It’s kind of a technicality,” he said of the difference between calling it a hurricane or a superstorm.
Hendrix College has “a lot of students from the East Coast,” Murchison said, “and that’s part of why we wanted to do something. We know there are a lot of people on campus whose family members are affected, but it hasn’t been as much [of] a conversation on campus as when Katrina hit.
“New York and New Jersey are farther away. We’re not in contact with that every day, but I have a lot of friends who have friends and family up on the East Coast.
“I’m really excited to be doing this and just getting students involved because so many people are affected, but it is easy to forget.”
Fraser doesn’t have the luxury of forgetting. It will be a long time before the town looks like she remembers, if it ever does.
“The community here has been very supportive,” Fraser said.
“Hendrix typically responds to things like this in some way. It’s not like this is some new effort here, but this one happened to strike home for me.”
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.