March 12, 2012

Hanover Athletes Aid with Tornado Recovery Efforts in Southern Indiana

Story courtesy of freelance writer Pam Windsor

HANOVER, IN - After all the havoc and ruin that occurred during the weekend of March 2 when a series of devastating tornadoes roared through southern Indiana and surrounding areas, it wasn't long before Hanover College joined in the  cleanup and rebuilding efforts.

Hanover Chaplain Laura Arico and Cortlan Waters, assistant director of residence life, met to determine what the school could do to help.

In fact, many students, as well as faculty and staff, wanted to get involved right away but Arico said it took time for the agencies going into those damaged areas to get to a point they could allow volunteers to help. Neither the receiving centers nor the clean-up crews were ready to handle outside assistance yet.

As soon as they got approval, emails went out asking for volunteers and more than 100 members of the Hanover College community quickly signed up. Students, faculty and staff poured into the Indiana towns of Marysville, Chelsea, New Washington and Henryville this past weekend to assist wherever needed, from cleanup to making meals.

In Marysville, Hanover Football Head Coach Steve Baudendistel and several dozen players were easy to spot in their red team sweatshirts as they carried household items like mattresses, cement blocks, broken doors, pieces of wood, wire and much more, away from damaged homes.

Junior Brian Robertson (Florence, Ky.) described it as “sobering” to see all of the destruction.

“Most of the houses out here are ripped down to their foundation, and there’s a lot of garbage to be picked up,” he said. “So, we’re moving things from out of the yards and toward the road and trying to organize it into piles of metal and wood.”

Backhoes and trucks then picked up the debris and moved it to dumpsters.

Senior Daniel Passafiume (Louisville, Ky.), one of the football captains who helped organize his team’s turnout, said that while he and the players had no personal connection to Marysville, they wanted to help.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this but putting ourselves in these people’s shoes, you can imagine, just looking around, how helpless they probably feel,” said Passafiume. “This is the least we can do, come out here and help them out.”

Donna Priest, who works at rival Manchester College, and is the mother of Hanover graduate Shelly Lopez, had nothing but praise for the team's efforts.

“This was so wonderful working together as two rival schools,” she said. “It was hard work but they did it with such joy.”

For Jane Stormer , who works in Hanover’s admission office, there was a personal connection. A friend lost three family members when the tornado struck in Chelsea. She knows the devastation tornadoes leave behind.

“I knew they needed a lot of help, I knew there was a lot of destruction, so I figured on a Saturday there’s nothing better I could do,” she said.

David Harden, Hanover's internship and Career Connections coordinator, who spent both days on site, said how sad it was to see entire communities leveled by the destruction.

"What hit me the most was how these houses had been around for generations and now they're gone," he said. "It was just so sad."

Arico said the volunteers found items that they were able to return to the homeowners.

“Our Saturday group found family pictures that had been blown into the woods,” she said. “They also were able to reunite some family heirlooms with their owners.”

While many worked in Marysville, other Hanover crews went to Chelsea and New Washington to help sort items donated by people throughout the community. A warehouse in New Washington has aisles and aisles of items that will eventually go toward those in need, as soon as they are ready to receive them.

Assistant Track Coach Josh Payne took members of the team to Henryville Sunday to help teammate Georgia Lacy (Henryville, Ind.) clear debris from her family's home in that tornado ravaged community.

As the weekend wrapped up, Arico said it was difficult to put an actual number on how many people turned out to help, because while the school had a volunteer list, there were many ad hoc efforts, as well.

Senior Christina Bizzle (LaGrange, Ky.) was pleased with the turnout by students.  

“I think it says a lot about our campus and a lot about the students that go there,” said Bizzle. “We definitely appreciate our communities and the surrounding people, and we like to do as much (as we can) to give back.”

The weekend efforts won’t be the only time the Hanover community offers assistance. Arico said the school plans to be in it for the long haul and will work with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance to clean up, help rebuild homes and restore communities.

“This is Hanover's character," said Arico.”These are our neighbors and this is our neighborhood.”