Donning rain gear on top of complimentary red T-shirts to keep dry, about 250 Yale faculty members, students and staff members braved the weather to participate in various community service projects throughout New Haven this past Saturday as part of the third annual Yale College Council Community Service Day.
Volunteers at various locations engaged in a wide range of tasks, from preparing summer woodworking kits at the Eli Whitney Museum to refurbishing facilities at the New Haven Boys and Girls’ Club.
One of the sites where participants were scheduled to do outdoor painting, No Place Like Home, was forced to cancel its events due to the inclement weather.
Participants gathered from 9 to 10 a.m. at the McDougal Center in the Hall of Graduate Studies to register and grab a quick breakfast before heading out to the various locations to volunteer for the morning, arriving back at Yale around 1 p.m.
At the YMCA youth center on Howe Street, roughly 20 volunteers painted the walls of the preschool and gaming rooms. The director of the center, Terry McCarthy, said she has worked with volunteer groups from Yale before, including at a study the Yale School of Management conducted at the Youth Center.
“I’ve always had a great experience with students [from] Yale,” she said. “We really use them in a variety of ways.”
Chris Wells ’06, the organizer of the event and former YCC community chairman, said he started the program along with former YCC Vice President Nirupam Sinha ’05 and the help of the administration three years ago to introduce diverse segments of the University to community service. The organizers contacted Nancy Berg of the United Way of Greater New Haven, who in turn contracted the community centers to participate.
“I think that all of the organizations were deeply grateful to have people there and helping,” Wells said. “It’s an outlet to mobilize people and get them to volunteer at specific organizations, and hopefully people will continue at the places they visit on community service day.”
Three years ago, the initial turnout goal was 500 volunteers, but Wells said poor weather on the actual day, the early Saturday morning start time and the generally hectic schedule of most Yale students have negatively affected participation over the past two years.
“I doubt we came close to 300 [this year], but at the same time we had enough volunteers for the projects,” he said.
Nevertheless, Wells said the relatively low turnout does not reflect poorly on the Yale student body.
“Yale kids are involved in lots of different activities, and of course we wish we could have more volunteers more of the time, but at the same time, I feel like the campus has a pretty good commitment to community service,” Wells said.
Students who participated this year said that they appreciated the aims of the program and that they enjoyed the work. Alex Navarro ’09, who cleared trails with about 40 other students at East Rock State Park to aid hikers and prevent forest fires, praised the ease of the sign up process.
“I felt I needed to help the New Haven community in some way, and this whole community service day is a great, very organized event which makes it very simple for any Yale student to participate,” Navarro said.
Navarro said that on the basis of his positive experience, he is considering volunteering in the future at New Haven Reads, another project site.
Nathalie Razo ’09, another volunteer at East Rock State Park, said finding a container of cocaine and other litter while clearing some trails heightened her awareness of the problems that face the area and convinced her to volunteer further in the future.