Guest Blog: Leah Cantor Sums Up the Sandy Crew

Here’s Jarred’s crew mate, Leah Cantor, with her take on the SCA Sandy Relief Corps experience. PHOTO: Jennica Tamler and Leah Cantor (L-R)

Mother Nature can be a powerful and heartbreaking force. The neighborhood I was born and raised in was completely wrecked. I sat there during my Thanksgiving meal, and instead of thinking about the tantalizing turkey, delectable mashed potatoes, and countless kinds of pie, I couldn’t stop my brain from thinking about the damage that had been done. If my neighborhood got hit this hard, and this wasn’t the worst of it, I couldn’t imagine what other areas of New York and New Jersey looked like. I knew I needed to help, I just wasn’t sure how.

I received an e-mail from my boss at The SCA shortly after, asking for volunteers that were willing to come to NJ to help with cleanup. I responded within minutes, hoping I would be chosen as part of this crew. Shortly after, I was boarding a plane with my Carhartt overalls on and my camping gear in my backpack.

Our crew started in Allair State Park, where we dove right into cleanup. I watched as grass in a campground became visible, and trees turned from widowmakers to mulch. The day before we left this park, we excitedly watched as campers pulled into their cabins. To know they could continue on with their camping plans in a safe manner made me feel satisfied to be a part of this incredible crew.

The SCA Sandy Relief Corps, ready for restoration.

Cheesequake State Park provided us with even more opportunities to fine-tune our chainsaw skills. We sawed and cleared trees that lay across a well-used biking trail. Most of these were single trees that seemed to be blown over and neatly placed across the trails. Our highly skilled team blazed through this trail faster than the winds of Hurricane Sandy herself. If only we could set up a camera somewhere during a massive storm like this; how amazing would that be to watch?

When we arrived to our next destination, we were especially excited because about ten other SCA staff planned to meet us to help out for a few days. It was nice to see fresh, familiar faces, and of course- stuff our faces with delicious food that night for dinner. We got in good laughs that night as I dominated in Apples to Apples. The next morning, we split our crew of thirteen up into two different groups — one group going to Round Valley and the other to Voorhees State Park. At Voorhees we could sense the eagerness of the locals to get back on their favorite running trails. The second we turned our saws off, high school track groups were running through.

Leah Cantor can’t believe her eyes!.

On Friday, we reached our final destination- Stokes State Forest with full stomachs, buff arms, and positive attitudes. The damage done at this park was unlike any that we had come across yet. Trees fell on top of trees, which fell on top of trees. Piles and messes of trees as far as you could see. Not even this could stop our determined team from helping. After safely assessing the tangled situation, we put on our chaps, revved up our saws, and got to clearing!

Everything we have been able to do helps, and for that I feel proud, and thankful to be connected to such an incredible company. A big shout out to my four co-workers who selflessly volunteered the last two weeks with me, and a big thank you to the wonderful Student Conservation Association!