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Weathering the storm

Residence staff and students step up during the storm of the century

Student Life

By Erin Delaney

A state of emergency (SOE) shut down most of the Northeast Avalon last week, but for Student Residences on the St. John’s campus it was business as (almost) usual.

Home to 1,200 students and 60 families, Student Residences could be classified as its own community.

“Keeping residents safe, comfortable and fed throughout the storm required plenty of preparation,” said Bruce Belbin, director, Student Residences.

“Our residents, residence life staff and support staff from other units truly stepped up and came together throughout the SOE to ensure that Student Residences was kept up and running.”

Keeping everyone comfortable

In the days preceding the storm, Guest Accommodations ensured that rooms in Hatcher House were available so that support staff from different units could stay on campus.

Approximately 40 employees from Facilities Management, Campus Enforcement and Patrol and Aramark, Memorial’s food services provider, stayed on site throughout the entire SOE to provide essential services to residents.

The Guest Accommodations team worked around the clock to make sure employees were kept comfortable and their necessities were provided.

The staff members also took care of previously booked guests who were forced to stay on campus, found extra supplies for guests and employees who were caught shorthanded, refreshed and flipped rooms to accommodate employees rotating in for shift changes, re-booked guests who were forced to cancel, communicated updates to everyone and responded to all messages and inquires.

Student Residence staff captured some of the scenes from the blizzard.
Photo: Submitted

Working together

While significant efforts were made to prepare for the storm, ultimately, everyone was taken by surprise by its intensity.

Residence Life staff quickly realized that, in order to keep residents safe and comfortable, they would need to take some matters into their own hands.

“It became clear that due to the nature of this storm that doors would be covered in snow, creating a major safety issue,” said Katherine Sue-Ping, Residence Life co-ordinator (Cartier).

“Our team really stepped up to keep exits free of snow. We recruited 21 volunteers – both Residence Life staff and students living in our building – and took shifts throughout the night to keep exits clear.”

Just some of the amazing student shovellers.
Photo: Submitted

Residence Life staff also provided support and reassurance to students concerned about the storm. Once conditions improved, outdoor activities and team building exercises were organized to keep spirits high.

Taking initiative

The unexpected eight day-long state of emergency that followed the storm was an opportunity for students living on campus to catch up with friends, get caught up on course work and provide support to their fellow housemates.

Some industrious students took on household chores at their residence.
Photo: Submitted

Like any home, though, day-to-day tasks still needed to be done. So, while cabin fever began to set in, residents decided to take on jobs that would typically be done by custodial staff. Living spaces were tidied, washrooms were scrubbed and hallways were swept.

“Mid-way through the storm our facilities had reached a point that they needed to be cleaned,” said Etienne Guinand, a student resident.

“We wanted to make sure people were comfortable in their space. We stepped up and got to work – this was not a hard decision. We used equipment that was accessible and cleaned to the best of our ability.”

Aramark, the food service contractor for the Dining Hall, ensured that the approximately 1,000 students with meal plans were fed and happy.

Despite operating with only 50 per cent of their usual staff, Aramark kept most food stations open, helped to keep exits free of snow and provided meals to any employees that had to stay on campus for the duration of the SOE.

Their role in keeping a sense of normalcy for residents did not go unnoticed.

Students rallied together to share their gratitude for the hard-working employees of Aramark.

Watch the video below to see how students showed their appreciation for the Aramark staff.

“We really can’t thank everyone enough for their hard work and dedication throughout this unprecedented storm,” said Mr. Belbin. “Everyone was safe, secure, fed and comfortable. You can’t ask for much more than that.”

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