Defiance College students help victims of Superstorm Sandy

May 1, 2019

13 people standing on and above a stair case that is under construction. They are wearing hoodies and jackets of all colors and smiling at the camera.

Photo idents, from bottom to top:
Alicia Kalik, Brad Harsha, Jordan Williams, George Superior, homeowner; Jenny Holbrooks (seated), Jordan Furko, Jason Santora, Natalie Ferguson-Schuerman (seated), Allison White, Cory Sidle, Malia Ferry, Mary Burkholder, Henna Frank

DEFIANCE, Ohio - Superstorm Sandy tore through the Caribbean on October 29, 2012, making landfall in the U.S. and devastating the Atlantic coast. The storm caused billions of dollars of damage, and residents of coastal New Jersey and New York are still putting the pieces together.

For the second year, a group of Defiance College students from the College's Service Leadership Program spent their spring break helping families get back on their feet. The Service Leaders collaborated with SBP, a disaster recovery agency. The organization originally expected to complete its work in 2018, but there are still approximately 2,000 houses in need of repair before families can return home.

The students spent several days painting, hanging insulation and drywall, mudding walls, installing flooring, and sanding. They also had the opportunity to move one homeowner into his rebuilt house.

Participants included: students Natalie Ferguson-Schuerman, Pemberville; Malia Ferry, Milford; Henna Frank, Petersburg, Mich.; Jordan Furko, Swanton; Jenny Holbrooks, Oakwood; Jason Santora, Avon; Cory Sidle, Bryan; Allison White, Defiance; and Jordan Williams, Osseo, Mich.; and trip leaders Brad Harsha, assistant dean of the McMaster School for Advancing Humanity; Mary Burkholder, director of human resources; and Alicia Kalik, assistant volleyball coach.

"It was inspiring to see our students spend their spring break interacting with people whose lives have been affected by a natural disaster," said Harsha, who coordinates the Service Leadership Program.

"They were able to gain a better understanding of how their assistance can directly help families get closer to being able to come home," he said.

Service Leader Jenny Holbrooks said the trip was eye-opening for her. She was surprised by the length of time after a natural disaster that people could still be without a home. "I also learned so much about the human spirit and how positive people can be even when they have had horrible experiences like having their homes destroyed and being victims of contractor fraud, losing thousands of dollars," she said. "Their positive attitudes were contagious. Not only was it a soul-fulfilling experience, I also learned many skills that I had no clue about before the trip!"

Jordan Williams noted the struggle that victims go through just to get home. "It was really heartbreaking to see what some of them had to and still have to go through."

Jordan Furko recalled the day that she and her fellow students helped a man move back into his home after seven years of moving from rental to rental. "We thought he would be excited, but instead he was nervous and scared," she said. "His house was right off the water and had been completely demolished. He was scared that it would happen again."

She added: "It was inspiring to think that so many people are willing to help. I'm glad I got to be one of those people."

One of the main reasons Allison White chose to attend Defiance College was because of travel opportunities, but the opportunity to help someone made it an even better experience. "I was able to experience part of building a home and the joy of someone moving home," she said.

Defiance College, chartered in 1850, is an independent, liberal arts-based institution in Northwest Ohio offering more than 40 undergraduate programs of study as well as graduate programs in education and business. Defiance College has received national recognition for its educational experience of service and engagement. The College website is