As rain from Tropical Storm Lee lashed New York's Southern Tier, the Susquehanna River and several creeks overflowed their banks, flooding the town of Owego. Rising waters forced the evacuation of many residents, and a scene of devastation greeted them upon their return.
Members of the Cornell Law Students Association (CLSA) knew of the flood losses and daunting clean-up task facing Owego, but noticed that donation boxes placed throughout the Law School were not filling. They decided to raise awareness and motivate their fellow students through the deployment of a little friendly competition. CLSA's Graduate and Professional Student Assembly representative Randa Adra '12 put out the call: The class (first-years, second-years, third-years, or LL.M.s) that raised the most aid for Owego would win a CLSA-sponsored event exclusively for its members. Classes would be awarded points for donations of money, supplies, and volunteer participation.
Adra began receiving enthusiastic responses almost immediately after submitting her "Gift of Giving Fundraiser" announcement to the listserv. As funds and provisions flowed into the CLSA office, a group of about nineteen students, organized by the Law School's Public Interest Law Union (PILU), headed to Owego to contribute some elbow grease. Donning masks and gloves, the volunteers spent the day of September 24 cleaning out a flood-ravaged church to be used as a site for relief services. "It was amazing to see what some students could do with a few hours of hard work and extremely satisfying to know that these hours helped get a homeless shelter and food kitchen back up and running," says Hahn Liu '13, co-president of PILU and one of the volunteers.
Within a week, CLSA had raised over $500 and many boxes of food, clothing, and household supplies. The second-year students won the competition, with the third-year students taking second place.
"It was a pleasure to help run the fundraiser," says Randa. "It was a great opportunity to see students really come out and support a neighboring community. I was very proud of CLS."