New Paltz students, staff and faculty help operate Red Cross Shelter

September 9, 2011

The residents who utilized the Red Cross shelter at the Wellness Center in Elting Gym included local families whose houses had flooded, or where flooding was anticipated and evacuation was encouraged or mandatory, or where households were dealing with extended power outages. They expressed their gratitude for the safety, security and support provided by the collaborative services of Red Cross and SUNY.

When road damage interfered with the Red Cross’s capacity to deliver food, Hasbrouck Dining Hall Director Nancy Feldsine quickly offered their services and donated food and beverages. Clients, shelter staff, and the student volunteers were all very appreciative that Hasbrouck kept the shelter stocked with high quality hot meals, fresh produce, snacks, and cold and hot beverages.

The Wellness Center amenities such as basketball courts also proved to be invaluable in entertaining the children forced to stay at the shelter. In addition to the overnight clients at the shelter, numerous families and individuals came for briefer stints to have a meal or to take a shower.

Red Cross-trained SUNY New Paltz student volunteers, who are pursuing a minor in Disaster Studies, mobilized quickly to perform various roles in shelter operations, from set-up and registration to food services and helping with client services.  They proved essential to the success of the venture due to their generosity, flexibility, training and skills and filling 12-hour night shifts.

“Seniors who had just begun the disaster practicum class were all intensely involved in the local response efforts, both at and beyond the SUNY shelter,” Professor James Halpern, (Psychology), director of the Institute for Disaster Mental Health said. Instead of going to scheduled weekly internship sites, they were deployed in the field doing bulk distribution in the community, food-shopping, transporting supplies, interacting with the media, and filling critical roles at the shelter. Under Halpern’s supervision, New Paltz graduate students in the Mental Health Counseling program participated in providing emotional support, and monitoring and helping manage stress levels.

Athletic Director Stu Robinson and Assistant Athletic Director Brian Williams prepared the gym and floor space during its temporary transformation as a shelter.

Emergency Response Team members Director Mike Malloy (Environmental Health & Safety) and Assistant Director Scott Schulte (Fire & Safety) were on hand to search the campus for extension cords and lamps so the overnight clients could have safe access to bathrooms and showers.

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