Coffee and cookies for a cause

Pi Lambda Phi raises money to help victims of Hurricane Sandy

The Spectrum

Rich Burdish, a senior environmental design major, did not know what to expect when he returned home to Lindenhurst, N.Y., for Thanksgiving Break. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, he was floored by what his hometown had become.

He had been at school when the storm hit and only saw pictures of the disaster awaiting him - but it didn't seem real. It wasn't until he went home a month later that he witnessed the enormity of the situation.

"The area was still in ruins, Red Cross trucks and representatives were still on every corner, a curfew was still in full effect, Humvees for the U.S. National Guard were patrolling the area and stationed at all major intersections," Burdish said. "I felt as if I were in a war zone; it was honestly something I never thought I'd witness."

Entire sides of houses were ripped off. Boats lay inside living rooms. Houses lay in shambles completely destroyed, he said.

The first floor of Burdish's house was flooded with 5 feet of water and one of the walls was burnt. Anything left on the first floor was destroyed and items were found strewn on the lawn and shredded. For several weeks, his parents sifted through the rubble trying to salvage anything that held meaning.

Burdish is one of many UB students who were affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Last Monday and Thursday, his fraternity, Pi Lambda Phi, held a Hurricane Sandy Relief drive four months after the storm for those who are still affected. The fraternity brothers set up a table in the Student Union to accept donations for Hurricane Sandy Victims. From 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., students who stopped by the table learned about victims in Breezy Point, N.Y., and donated money to help the cause.

Students contributed whatever amount they wanted and were given cookies and coffee as a thank you gesture, said Kasian Warenycia, a sophomore civil engineering major and philanthropy chairman of the fraternity.

Members of Pi Lambda Phi decided to come together and raise money for Breezy Point because they think it's the area that was hit the worst.

"None of us [here] live in Breezy Point, where the money is going, but we all live in Long Island," Warenycia said. "We went back home and saw the destruction it caused. We know the magnitude of it."

Although Burdish isn't raising money for his hometown, he is happy his fraternity is trying to make a difference.

"It's really nice to know there are still good people in this world," he said.

Pi Lambda Phi thought of the idea to fundraise last semester, but put the plan into effect this semester and worked with MORE House, UB's sophomore learning community.

Hayley Ross, a sophomore international studies and history major, and Jenny Goracke, a junior psychology and communication major, were surprised by the success of Pi Lambda Phi's fundraiser.

Ross and Goracke are members of the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority. They were supportive of the drive and dedication seen in the fraternity members at the table. Like their brother fraternity, Pi Lambda Phi, sisters of Alpha Gamma Delta were also greatly impacted by the destruction of the hurricane.

Goracke was stuck in the Bronx with her boyfriend for a week while the storm raged through New York State because none of the airlines were flying. She said they weren't hit tragically; they only experienced the bad weather.

Ross wasn't personally affected either, but she jumped at the opportunity to help her friends.

"A lot of my friends' houses and families within my sorority were affected because they live there," Ross said. "It hit home, just hearing everyone talking about it, and [I enjoyed] being there to support my sisters."

About 20-30 percent of people walking through the Student Union donated to the cause and the majority were UB faculty, staff and former students, according to Ross. She thinks the boys picked a great place to set up their fundraising because so many people walk through that area everyday.

This is the first natural disaster fundraiser Pi Lambda Phi has done, but they hope to continue to raise money for various charities. The fraternity raised $280 over the two days, exceeding its goal of $200. They were glad they were able to make a difference.

Burdish is feels the donations will leave a big impact on his community.

"Friends of mine and neighbors had lost their entire houses to the storm. The houses next door, across the street and diagonal have all been abandoned since the storm hit," Burdish said. "Everything is slowly returning back to the way it was, at least for us, but I know there are families that are still in shambles, and my heart really goes out to them and their loved ones."