‘Army of Colonels’ lends a helping hand to areas devastated by flood

Christine Lee, Life Editor

Upon arrival at a residential neighborhood along the Lackawanna River creek on Saturday, Sept. 17, a group of volunteers were greeted with the sight of piles of debris in front of homes in Duryea. When the volunteers entered some of the homes, they discovered that mud coated the insides of homes and many of the homes were gutted to help them air out.

Although it seemed disheartening to look at the insides of homes and homeowners bringing out mud-coated belongings, the ‘Army of Colonels’ formed to help those affected by the Sept. 8 flood have persisted in their efforts to lend a hand to those in need. Some may think that students were asked to volunteer for a club or sports team, many have done it purely out of the goodness of their hearts.

“I don’t think I can say enough how awesome our students are and just the amount of work that they are going out and doing and not asking for anything in return; they just want to go out and help others in need,” Campus Interfaith Coordinator Caitlin Czeh, who led the group of students to Duryea to help out, said.

Many of those whom students have helped say they are very grateful for the amount of effort that the Colonels have given.
One of those is Pittston resident Jim Connors, who is a landlord of several apartments that were devastated by floodwaters in Duryea.

“I don’t know what we’d do without the help,” Connors said. “Every hand helps, in a situation like this the hardest part about the job is to get everything wide open so we can dry it out.”

Connors says that Wilkes is to be commended for having students come and help out with flood relief efforts.

“The homeowners are devastated, and the more help and the more people that they see come out and help that care, it really means a lot,” Connors said.

Among students who volunteered their time on Saturday, Sept. 17 in Duryea were freshman environmental engineering major Kayla Reed, freshman biology major Samantha Rivera and junior earth and environmental science major Kim Gumaer.

“It’s a good feeling, people coming together to help out,” Gumaer said. “It makes me feel good that I’ve done something good for someone else; it shouldn’t take a big event to get people to help out, you should just come help out.”

Reed and Rivera say that going into a complete stranger’s house to help out is a new experience for them, as neither had done something like that before.

“Usually if I would help out somebody it would be somebody that I would know, these are complete and total strangers and so it’s really interesting to see these people and how they’re coping with the flood,” Rivera said.

The ‘Army of Colonels’ consists of volunteers who go to towns that were affected by the flood and help out those in other towns along the river weren’t so fortunate, even some that did not sustain flooding in 1972 from Hurricane Agnes.

According to Community Service Coordinator Megan Boone, the need for volunteers from Wilkes to help with relief efforts started when the university realized that some of their own were directly affected by the flood.

“We have faculty, staff, students and alumni that have lost everything or who had damage,” Boone, who has been responsible for coordinating volunteer efforts, said.

Boone said it took some time to figure out how the university could give assistance properly. Boone said that when encountering remnants of the flood, people don’t really know what is in the remnants.

“We wanted to make sure we were being careful and responsible with our students,” Boone said.

To do this, Boone’s office worked with Marketing and Communications, Student Affairs and the Alumni Office to form a flood response team with constituents on campus to help those associated with the university affected by the flood. Eventually others that were affected asked for the Colonels’ assistance, which created a huge task in trying to organize volunteers.

“To make everything flow better we created the Doodle link, which helps us not only count how many volunteers we have but who’s available at what time and how many people we would need to transport,” Boone said. “That really has helped quite a bit (with our efforts).”

To show their support for those affected, President Tim Gilmour, Vice President of Student Affairs Paul Adams, Associate Dean of Student Development Phil Ruthkosky and Dean of Students Mark Allen each personally helped out as an initiative.

Boone says she is grateful for the campus shuttle service for transportation and facilities for allowing the Colonels to use their tools and donating equipment.

Reed says it is very “humbling” to volunteer and makes you feel more grateful for what you do have and makes you realize that people do care when something like that happens.

“Try not to focus on yourself too much, make sure that you reach out to your community at least a little bit, even if it is just something small it makes a difference,” Reed said