AYA aims to expand service day

Less than two months before the Association of Yale Alumni’s first-ever dedicated, global alumni service day, organizers of the program are pushing to double its scale and get more alumni cleaning parks, working in soup kitchens and teaching underprivileged children to swim, among other volunteer activities.

As of Tuesday, more than 80 different Yale clubs and alumni groups across the world had signed on to pitch in at nearly 150 local sites on the Yale Day of Service, to be held May 16, Assistant Director of Alumni Relations Alisa Masterson said. The event’s alumni chairman, David Sanchez GRD ’84, said he expects several thousand alumni to get involved.

AYA hopes the event will bring together many alumni who may never have found a reason to interact or work together, AYA Director Mark Dollhopf said.

“There’s a lot to be said about having alumni who are 60 years old standing next to alumni who are 22 years old and having them pitch in and give back to their local communities,” Dollhopf said.

The event is the first of its kind organized by the AYA and is not intended to raise money, Dollhopf said. Still, he added, the program may inspire alumni to give back to the University when they are finished giving back to their communities.

“When we convey our sense of our values, and when the alumni are reconnected with those values, they will give [to Yale],” he said. “But it’s not our goal.”

In many ways, the program is meant to build a culture of service among Yale alumni, he said.

“We’re trying to change hearts and minds of alumni as well,” he said. “Not all our alumni are convinced that they should be volunteering in their local communities. I don’t agree with them at all.”

Sanchez added that the program will help attract alumni who, up to now, have not been involved in their local Yale clubs. But Dollhopf was quick to point out that many local Yale clubs have initiated their own service projects for alumni in the past. Alumni will participate in a variety of activities, from delivering meals to seriously ill individuals, to working at preschools, to packing and shipping food items, said Masterson, an AYA staffer working exclusively on the program.

A total of 34 states and 12 countries have already set up sites for the Yale Day of Service, Masterson said, from Argentina to Egypt to Japan.

Organizing the event has required the work of a vast network of alumni volunteers, Sanchez said. A group of 25 alumni comprise a committee responsible for coordinating the Yale Day of Service with the roughly 180 Yale clubs around the world. Additionally, alumni have been working with more than 100 special alumni interest groups such as the Yale Alumni Chorus and Yale GALA, he said. He estimated that more than 200 alumni volunteers are working across the world to organize the event, a figure that is growing each day.

Sanchez said the souring economy has had no impact on the funds available to the Yale Day of Service, and Dollhopf added that the nation’s difficult economic situation makes the program especially important.

“It’s not only the right program for the right institution, it’s also the right program for the times,” Dollhopf said.

Sanchez said the Yale Day of Service will be an annual event that the AYA intends to hold in the future.

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