Student initiative to assist typhoon victims gets big support from Susquehanna Bank

A generous gift from Susquehanna Bank has given Rowan University students a huge boost in their efforts to assist typhoon victims in the Philippines.

A generous gift from Susquehanna Bank has given Rowan University students a huge boost in their efforts to assist typhoon victims in the Philippines.

During a ceremony on Dec. 6, bank officials presented members of Rowan’s Philippine American Coalition (PAC) with a $5,000 check to support their efforts to help victims in the Philippines rebound from Typhoon Haiyan. The storm in early November caused 5,000 deaths and left thousands of people homeless.

While no students in PAC had families severely affected by the storm, the typhoon’s impact is substantial. That’s why the 30 active members of PAC, which was founded just last semester, sprang into action as soon as the storm hit, says PAC President Michael Bacani, a senior biochemistry major from Toms River. 

“My first thought when the typhoon hit was, ‘Is my family safe?’ My second thought was, “What can we do to help?’

“The day the typhoon hit, I called an emergency executive board meeting and we planned our activities in two hours.”

Through their hard work—and the support of others University-wide—the students raised $550 through the sale of “The Philippine Spirit is Waterproof” wristbands and some baked goods. Additionally, they collected food, clothing and supplies to send to the Philippines. Thus far, the donations have filled 10 large boxes.

PAC students have been assisted in their efforts by a host of University organizations, including the Student Government Association, the International Center, the Asian Cultural Association, Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority, and Rowan ROTC, which donated 170 MREs.

Catholic Relief Services will distribute monies raised, while the Filipino American Medical Society is shipping food and clothing for distribution to typhoon survivors.

PAC’s work caught the attention of Jaggie DiMartino, Assistant Vice President, Branch Relationship Manager, at Susquehanna Bank. Her Internet research on community organizations dedicated to helping typhoon victims quickly turned up the student group’s efforts. Impressed by the students’ work, DiMartino reached out to Bacani. The bank’s gift became larger once DiMartino saw the students’ drive to assist others on a global level, she said.

Kathie Stone, Regional President of Susquehanna Bank, worked to ensure the $5,000 gift. Susquehanna, which boasts more than 240 branches in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia, has 28 branches in South Jersey.

Supporting a small, student-led initiative

“Bank executives in this region thought this was a worthy—and very important—cause to support,” Stone says. “Community service is a huge part of the mission of Susquehanna Bank.”

“The students were over-the-top ecstatic,” says DiMartino, who joined with Stone and other bank executives in making the gift to the Rowan Foundation, members of PAC, Rowan President Ali Houshmand, Dean of Students Richard Jones, and Rowan Trustee Lita Marcelo Abele.

PAC Vice President A.J. Rustia, a biology major, was impressed by Susquehanna’s support of a small, student-led initiative.

“It’s obvious that they are interested in investing in what’s happening around their community,” says Rustia. “Instead of going to a really big agency, they wanted to check out their own backyard first.

“Their support—and the support of the University community—shows us that if you’re doing something for a good cause, everybody’s willing to join together and help.”

International impact

Bank officials thanked the students for their work to help others on an international level.

“Your efforts are phenomenal. We appreciate the work and support you’ve put into this,” DiMartino told them.

While the donation was sizable, PAC students’ fundraising efforts to help the Philippines are not done. On Jan. 24, they’re holding a fundraiser in conjunction with the Philadelphia 76ers. With every ticket they sell to the Sixers’ game against the Toronto Raptors, $5 will go to Philippine victims.

To order tickets, contact Bacani at

In addition to PAC’s work, students involved with the Rowan Television Network (RTN) held “Philippine Benefit Special: Typhoon Haiyan Relief,” a 90-minute television special that raised nearly $800 for victims through the “Waves for Water” organization.