Students head north for storm relief efforts

Correction appended

Senior Izzy Parilis was glued to her Twitter feed and local news stations Monday, bracing for Hurricane Sandy to leave her D.C. backyard in shambles.

But as the winds died down, she quickly realized that the area’s northern neighbors would take the storm’s toughest blow and began to coordinate a trip up the East Coast to aid recovery efforts.

Dozens of students from the community service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega will drive to New York and New Jersey – two of the University’s largest feeder states – next week to clear away debris in communities battered by the storm. Some estimates pegged property damages at $20 billion.

“My immediate reaction was to look at the District and see what’s going on around here. But the greatest need is in New York and New Jersey,” Parilis said. “One of the biggest things people don’t understand is trash doesn’t move itself.”

Media Credit: Jordan Capizola | Hatchet Photographer

Parilis, the organization’s president and a New Jersey native, said she felt “responsible” to help pitch in. She added that since a large percent of students hail from the tri-state area, students will be even more likely to get involved in the relief efforts. Her home lost power during the storm, but did not suffer major damages.

Many of the members, including Parilis, have also participated in cleanup work after natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina. The students in the group often volunteer as part of the University’s Freshman Day of Service and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, and also go on alternative break trips.

Junior and APO member Alex Immekus said he is planning a trip to Ocean City, Md. Saturday, which saw much of its beloved pier and neighborhood obliterated by heavy flooding and intense winds. He expects 10 to 30 students from APO and alternative breaks to attend. The group will travel in three cars, leaving at 7 a.m. and returning that night.

“Watching all the images of the floods has really affected me and it reminded me of the images of Katrina,” Immekus, who has volunteered multiple times in New Orleans, said. “That really resonated with me, and I wanted to help.”

He said the team is not sure if there will be a system in place for volunteers just days after the storm came ashore, but that students would pick up debris and clear roads where it would safe.

The group also visited the American Red Cross Donation Center located at 2025 E St., for a blood drive.

“They really, really need blood,” senior Emma Yackso said. “Why wouldn’t you take an hour out of your day and give blood? It saves a life.”

Yackso said 15 APO members are expected to donate within the next week. Five already donated.

Steve Mavica, communications manager for the Red Cross, said most of the blood donations in the next few weeks will stay in the greater Chesapeake and Potomac region due to such high demand.

“Typically, we do not collect enough blood in the region to fulfill the demand,” Mavica said. “With the loss we’ve had in the region itself, the inventory will be even more stressed.”

If pressed, the D.C. branch may also send blood to highly affected areas such as New Jersey and New York, Mavica said. So far, the storm’s death toll in the U.S. has reached more than 50.

Cory Weinberg contributed to this report

This article was updated Nov. 1 2012 to the reflect the following:

The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Alpha Phi Omega organized a blood drive. The blood drive was organized by the American Red Cross.

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