University News

University provides local flood relief

By
Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 27, 2010

In the wake of severe flooding earlier this month in Rhode Island, Brown has been working on coordinating a multifaceted relief effort. President Ruth Simmons asked Marisa Quinn, vice president for public affairs and University relations, and Russell Carey ’91 MA’06, senior vice president for corporation affairs and governance, to gather a team in order to coordinate a response to the flooding. They met with a group that included faculty, staff and a student in order to organize and facilitate University response efforts.

According to the most recent community-wide, flood effort–related e-mail from Carey and Quinn, the University is offering assistance in several ways.

First, Brown is providing donations to relief agencies. In the immediate aftermath of the flooding, the University donated $50,000 to the Rhode Island Flood Recovery Fund, which was established by the United Way of Rhode Island. According to Clay Wertheimer ’10, president of the Undergraduate Council of Students, the benefit of giving to an organization like the United Way is that, as an established organization, it has low overhead cost and thus aid goes directly to the community.

In addition to this donation, student groups are working on more fundraising efforts. Colleen McDonald ’12, the student representative on the group that met with Quinn and Carey, said she and UCS Vice President Diane Mokoro ’11 made an announcement on stage at Saturday’s Spring Weekend concert asking for donations. UCS volunteers then passed baskets around the crowd, collecting a total of $350.

McDonald said it was meant to be just a “drop in the bucket.”

Wertheimer said this event was “really low key, but I think it was a nice opportunity to remind people and get them engaged.”

According to Wertheimer, a lot of students want to help, but are “not exactly sure how.” He said the main goal of UCS is to help “keep them informed about other opportunities.”

An additional $200 were raised in donations taken at the past two men’s lacrosse games, according to Patrick Walker, travel and promotions coordinator for the Athletics Department.

Other efforts have aimed at gathering groups of volunteers. The University has been involved in two projects through Serve Rhode Island. First, the organization asked for a group of four individuals to provide assistance to elderly residents in Olneyville, Quinn wrote in an e-mail to The Herald. “Given the time and the limited number of individuals needed, we asked Facilities Management if there would be individuals interested.” Twenty staff members from Facilities expressed interest, and four assisted with the project.

The second project took place in Westerly, R.I. Twelve students and staff members traveled to Westerly, where they were assigned a street that had suffered significant damage. They went from house to house offering assistance in cleaning out basements and yards. McDonald, one of the student volunteers, said the project was “easy with a group of people” but that she could see how it would be overwhelming for residents to have to sort through their water-damaged items and throw them away. She said that some residents helped her group with the cleaning, but that others were not present. “Some people preferred not to really deal with it,” she said.

McDonald has also been contacting student groups about organizing other fundraisers and group service events. Details have not been finalized, but McDonald said she has spoken with Greek organizations, athletic teams and program houses about potential projects.

The University is also encouraging students to undertake summer work, primarily through the Swearer Center, to assist in the recovery. “In terms of summer efforts, there have been a few students expressing interest so far, and a few preliminary ideas for possible projects,” Roger Nozaki MAT’89, associate dean of the college and director of the Swearer Center, wrote in an e-mail to The Herald. According to Nozaki, the goal is to ensure that projects are driven by what the community needs, which means gathering input before undertaking projects.

“The students who’ve come forward to date regarding the summer haven’t proposed ideas, but were just expressing interest if projects came together,” he wrote.

The e-mail from Quinn and Carey also said the University hopes to respond “to needs that the governor’s office identifies as important.” The governor’s office is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate statewide responses. Once these needs are evaluated, Carey and Quinn wrote, “we anticipate that there will be much help needed in the coming weeks and months.”

Finally, Carey and Quinn mentioned Brown efforts to help employees and families impacted by the flood. “The Emergency Grant committee has streamlined the application process to make seeking funds as simple as possible and has put information about the new process on the web. Several applications have been made to date and all have been approved,” they wrote in the community-wide e-mail.