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Group Returning to Puerto Rico for Hurricane Relief Work

Puerto Rico volunteers
SUNY Geneseo students, staff and community members performed storm clean-up tasks in Puerto Rico during the College’s Spring Break in March, including trench digging next to this church building. Another group is going to the island May 14-20.

SUNY Geneseo students are returning to Puerto Rico May 14-20 for hurricane relief work, the second trip the College has made there since Hurricane Maria devastated much of the island last fall.

Seven students, a staff member and a 2016 alumnus are going to the island as part of Livingston CARES, a non-profit humanitarian organization housed at the College, which was created between Geneseo and Livingston County community in 2005 in response to Hurricane Katrina. For the organization’s most recent work trip to Puerto Rico, College staff member Betsy Colon, grants management associate, led a crew of 10 students and community members during Geneseo’s Spring Break in March.

“The group that went to Puerto Rico recently saw tremendous devastation but were able to make a mark with vital support for the week they were there,” said Tom Matthews, associate dean for leadership and service at Geneseo and president of the Livingston CARES board. “The group going next week will be working under the auspices of Rehace Inc. of the United Methodist Church in San Juan and will be working with coordinators all week putting up metal roofs on houses and distributing water purification kits in areas where potable water is still an issue.”

Matthews said he anticipates Geneseo students participating in New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s “NY Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative” when SUNY and CUNY student volunteers deploy to the island in June. He said details are still being worked out on recruitment but the College would send notices to Geneseo students interested in joining the effort.

Participants in Livingston CARES service trips pay their own travel expenses and work closely with groups organizing the cleanup for accommodations and meals. Leading next week’s crew will be Fatima Rodriguez Johnson, assistant dean of students for multicultural programs and services at Geneseo, and 2016 alumnus Dan Martin, who went on several Livingston CARES trips as a student at Geneseo.

Since the first trip to Mississippi in 2006, Livingston CARES has made 55 service trips with nearly 1,100 volunteers to storm-ravaged areas of the country such as Staten Island, Brooklyn, Mississippi, Texas and Florida. Matthews spearheaded formation of the College/community organization to build a service component into his highly regarded co-curricular leadership program GOLD (Geneseo Opportunities for Leadership Development). Through GOLD, students earn various levels of certificates based on their involvement in leadership training, personal development courses, service-learning experiences and volunteer work.

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