nursing schoolJohns Hopkins University School of Nursing (JHUSON) student Leeann Wilbur sat devastated as she watched the television coverage of the ripping tides pushed by Hurricane Sandy roll through and destroy her New Jersey hometown.

From the safety of Baltimore, Wilbur (Nursing Accel. ‘13) was determined she would not go home for Thanksgiving without somehow helping her family and friends whose homes and lives had been turned upside down.

Her call-out to the SON for help and a donations drive in the School lobby encouraged students, faculty, and staff to bring in goods that could be taken to various areas in New Jersey hit by the hurricane. Wilbur organized a list of shelters and drop-off locations in the Ocean and Monmouth County areas and contacted them frequently to see what items were most needed for each specific location. Mass amounts of toiletries, paper towels, toilet paper, socks, jackets, food, shoes, baby items, pet food items, blankets, bedding, and more poured in, as colleagues jumped on the opportunity to give to these hurting communities. Bins in the school overflowed with offerings. “I was overwhelmed by the amount of people who wanted to help,” said Wilbur. “It was really amazing.”

The drive that started out solely for the School of Nursing was soon adopted by other groups including the Johns Hopkins Hospital Transplant Unit, the café and bakery Main Ingredient, and the Adams United Methodist Church in Lothian. At the SON, the Financial Aid Office created its own mini-drive to bring in more donations.

After renting a truck and fully packing a van, Wilbur made two trips to New Jersey to deliver the donations. She stopped at the St. Justin’s Church and the Grace and Peace Church in her hometown of Toms River before moving on to other New Jersey drop-off locations including the Ocean County Hunger Relief, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Ocean County, Brick P.A.L., Jersey Shore Animal Center, Hoboken Homeless Shelter, and Rebuild the Jersey Shore headquarters.

“Whenever the donation centers asked where I was bringing the donations from, and I told them our School in Baltimore, they were always so surprised that we drove all the way from Maryland,” said Wilbur. “They all were extremely grateful.”

While Wilbur knew her efforts were greatly appreciated, she also recognized that an adversity such as this was an opportunity to make a difference by personally addressing the devastation. “The only way I was able to focus on my school work again was to do something to help, and since I couldn’t physically volunteer my time [in New Jersey], I thought the next best thing would be to start a collection in the Hopkins community.” And that she did.