More than 275 students, faculty and staff participated in various service projects at New Haven community centers Saturday in the first Yale Community Service Day.
At the event, participant teams helped with several tasks, such as passing out free books to New Haven families, cleaning up East Rock Park for summer use, and painting and refurbishing several other local agencies. The Yale College Council hosted Community Service Day with sponsorship from the University, the union locals that represent over 4,000 Yale workers, and other University and city organizations. Many members of undergraduate clubs worked at sites with their fellow members.
As part of their philanthropy mission to increase literacy in the region, members of the sorority Pi Beta Phi spent the day organizing the bookshelves at New Haven Reads, an agency that allows every visitor to take up to five free books per day. Sorority members also tutored several young children who came to the center for help with reading. Erica Oppenheimer ’06 said Pi Phi’s mission to increase educational opportunities for New Haven citizens has been gratifying.
“It’s very wonderful to see there are so many resources being made available to the community,” Oppenheimer said.
Carolyn Swiers, a staff member at New Haven Reads, praised the University’s involvement in the community. Dwight Hall manages New Haven Reads’ funding, much of which has been bolstered by donations from Garry Trudeau ’70 ART ’73 and a gift from the Class of 1955 designated for any organization outside of the University.
“Yale has been phenomenal to us,” Swiers said. “We couldn’t accomplish any of this without them. With their help, we can use education to break the cycle of family-to-family poverty.”
YCC Community Chairman Christopher Wells ’06, who organized the event with YCC Vice President Nirupam Sinha ’05, said he was pleased with Saturday’s turnout and praised the administration for its support. Wells and Sinha both ran for YCC positions to foster more student involvement in the community, Wells said.
“In talking to people, our feedback has been incredibly positive. I think this has also been one of the best cooperative efforts between the YCC and Yale in recent memory,” Wells said.
Before Saturday’s events, Yale Vice President for Finance and Administration John Pepper, who visited all of the sites on Saturday and worked on the project at East Rock State Park, said he was impressed with the level of service activities on campus and expects Community Service Day to continue in the future.
“Beyond doing some good, it was a lot of fun,” Pepper, who took his post in January, said. “This is the kind of thing that can really show we do care about the community.”
In addition to a turnout that exceeded the YCC’s goal of 250 volunteers, the day offered benefits to members of the Yale community who participated, Sinha said.
“Our goal was not only to build communities in New Haven, but to engage the entire Yale community and allow students, administration members and staff to meet each other in a different way,” Sinha said.
Columbia University sponsors a community service day that Sinha said impressed him.
Sigma Phi Epsilon President William Garneau ’05, who painted with about 15 members of his fraternity at The Connection, a center for at-risk youth and single mothers, said he found Saturday’s work rewarding. Garneau also said while he was impressed with the scale of this year’s Community Service Day, which fell on the weekend before reading week, he would like to see more students, faculty and staff contribute their time next year.
“I thought yesterday was very positive,” Garneau said. “For the first year, [the event organizers] did a great job. But for a community this large, only 250 volunteers or so is very few.”
Other project sites included the Eli Whitney Museum and Christian Community Action.