In honor of Martin Luther King Jr.’s dedication to social justice and equality, Yale alumni and graduate and professional students, as well as University employees, joined Yale undergraduates in their effort to provide social service to the New Haven community.
The project, called “Strengthening Communities: 1,000 Hours of Volunteer Service,” was co-sponsored by the Yale Coalition of Diversity and Dwight Hall, and organized by Dwight Hall Program Coordinator Hannah Croasmun ’01. The main goal, Croasmun said, was to encourage the whole of the Yale community to reach out to the city by dedicating at least a thousand hours of community service during January and February.
“I think that the drive was of particular importance to members of the Yale community who don’t have the time to commit to long-term voluntary activities,” Croasmun said. “It also was a good opportunity for interaction between the graduate and undergraduate communities.”
Croasmun said that, in the past, only a single day of service was organized in honor of the slain civil rights leader. This year’s new approach encourages the involvement of more people and aagencies, by providing them the opportunity to serve beyond a single weekend. In addition, Croasmun said, the approximately 30 service activities organized for these two months can serve as a link between Martin Luther King Day in January and Black History Month in February.
Dwight Hall co-coordinator Ben Staub ’06 said the University community is very close to reaching the 1,000-hour goal.
Four major voluntary activities took place this past weekend. On Friday, Jan. 15, volunteers visited Wilbur Cross High School to discuss their college experience with the students and provide advice on the college application process. On Saturday, volunteers organized a “Pajama Party” at the Vincent Mauro Elementary School, where they read books about Black History Month with students and their families. Courtney McNally ’06, the event coordinator and a public school intern at Vincent Mauro, said the event was very successful and represented a good opportunity for students to interact with the greater Hew Haven community.
“The kids love the attention,” McNally said. “They were very friendly, and the school was very supportive and willing to incorporate the volunteers into its activities.”
Croasmun said the event was “the highlight of her weekend.”
“It was very heartwarming to see Yale volunteers reading to kids,” she said. “Parents were very appreciative.”
The last two events of the week took place Monday morning. The Rotaract Club, a student service organization, organized the Downtown Evening Food Kitchen’s food pantry, while another group of students helped to build a home with Habitat for Humanity in the Dixwell community.
“The Habitat event filled out very quickly,” Croasmun said. “The interest in it was great, and the volunteers were committed to going there despite the snow.”
Though the Habitat event attracted many volunteers, other projects also attracted considerable interest. Croasmun said she hopes the project occurs on a larger scale next year, with more volunteers at even more projects.