Marywood Faculty and Students Aid Flood Victims

Published on Fri, October 14, 2011

By Kenny Luck,

Immaculate Conception Church in West Pittston, PA, is a place that is recognizable to everyone in the neighborhood. Built in 1959, the church is located between Fremont and Luzerne streets, a tree-lined area that is quaint and quiet. Downstairs in the basement, a group of frantic workers are getting ready for tonight's dinner. The faint smell of food lingers, while kitchen noises—banging pans, dripping water and humming dishwashers—echo throughout the space. Look closer, however, and another story unfolds.

Outside on a nearby street, Dr. Estelle Campenni directs a group of students. Dr. Campenni, an associate professor of psychology at Marywood, has lived in West Pittston for more than 12 years. Her house, located on Philadelphia Street, was spared by the flood—the water coming within 4 feet of her front porch. Others, however, were not so lucky. Walking through Dr. Campenni's neighborhood, one can still see mud clinging to the sides of houses, while trucks and bulldozers continue to clean; debris still lines the street.

"These houses suffered a lot of devastation," she says, pointing down the street. "A lot of these people are not going to be back in their houses for about a year."

In the days after the flood, Dr. Campenni began organizing some of her students to aid in the recovery, and word began to spread. Almost overnight, she began receiving requests from residents in other nearby neighborhoods. Service, she says, is part of Marywood's mission—an obligation to help others.

Since last month, about 50 Marywood students have helped with the flood relief efforts. Two of those students—Meghan Coyle and Celeste Maldonado—joined Dr. Campenni on September 30 in West Pittston, PA, to aid in the relief efforts. Coyle, a graduate student studying reading education, says that after seeing the devastation on television, she couldn't just stand back—she wanted to help.

"I'm so glad that I have the opportunity to help, because if this were me, I would love to know that people are out there supporting me," she says. "As the weeks pass, it is not in the news anymore, and people tend to forget what happened. I would love to see Marywood continue to bring a large group of people here."

Entering a small home on Luzerne Street, Coyle and Maldonado walk past a debris heap on the front lawn. Inside, the structure has been gutted, and only a shell remains. Built in 1857, the home was purchased a mere three weeks before the flood struck. Coyle and Maldonado talk to the owner for a few minutes and begin installing insulation, a task Maldonado says she has never done before.

"This is the first time I've worked at a disaster setting," she admits, "but I am obligated as a person of the community to do whatever I can."

When asked what it is like seeing her neighbored nearly destroyed, Dr. Campenni responded with a simple, "It's hard." For months to come, the people in this community will have to rebuild their homes and their spirits. With the help of Marywood volunteers like Coyle and Maldonado, that process may move faster, allowing flood victims to move on with their lives.

"We have a large student population that could be doing more," Maldonado says. "Until a student sees it, I don't think they realize the impact it could have. I'm just one person, but I feel like I helped a lot. If I can help, anybody can."

If you're interested in volunteering, please contact Campus Ministry at (570) 961-4723 or For more information about how you can help, visit Marywood's flood relief page.