Erin and Emily Burdick, sisters and students at Seaford High School, have been living in a temporary rental house since superstorm Sandy hit six weeks ago. They are not expected to be able to return to their south Seaford home for another six weeks. The entire first floor of their house flooded with more than 4 feet of water, destroying furniture, appliances and family keepsakes.
This hasn’t slowed down the two active students. Both are members of the cheerleading squad and student council, and their school involvement has only increased in the weeks following the storm.
“I keep thinking how lucky we’ve been,” Erin Burdick, 17, said of herself and Emily, 16. “The school and all the teachers have been so generous, everyone always asks how we’re doing."
The sisters volunteered with the Seaford High School Sandy Relief Committee to help other families affected or displaced after the storm. They were present, along with their cheerleading team and student council, Monday night, when the school held its Sandy Relief Community Dinner.
“The school has provided that sense of normalcy and it’s been a constant in the students’ lives ever since the storm,” said Shari Raduazzo, an English teacher and co-founder of the committee.
The committee began as a texting and emailing conversation among several teachers and administrators during the five days following the storm, when the school was closed. The first meeting was held on the first official day back, and a three-phase plan was instituted to help the entire school community, particularly the students most affected.
The first phase of the plan was to raise money through donations from local residents and businesses. In less than five weeks, the committee raised more than $12,000. The second phase involved collecting cleaning supplies and food. A survey was distributed to students to determine how greatly each family was affected. Funds and supplies were allotted accordingly.
“The first week back, we were replacing books and school supplies,” Raduazzo said. “Some students still don’t have computers, and many displaced students are commuting from all over Long Island.”
Through the survey, the committee determined that 68 Seaford High School families were hit the hardest. The $12,000 was divided and used to purchase $175 Visa gift cards. These gift cards were personalized and distributed to each of the 68 affected families at Monday night’s community dinner, held at Seaford High School.
“The dinner was the third phase of the plan,” said Tania Cintorino, 33, an English teacher at the high school and co-chairwoman of the committee. “This isn’t just a matter of need in terms of money; all some people need is a night out.”
More than 200 people attended the dinner, which was catered by teachers and staff of the school. Platters were donated from local restaurants. Student volunteers served food and ate alongside families from the community.
“I encouraged a lot of people to come tonight,” Seaford High School junior Deanna Schneider, 16, said. “I know a lot of kids were embarrassed to come, but this isn’t just for the affected families; it’s for the whole community.”
Above: Seaford High School teachers, from left, Genevieve Lagattuta, Jennifer Swiencki and Andrea Palleschi volunteered to cook and serve pasta at the Seaford High School Sandy Relief Community Dinner. (Dec. 10, 2012)