Over 100 students gardened, picked up trash and performed other acts of community service across New Haven on Saturday morning for Dwight Hall’s annual Spring Day of Service, an event intended to encourage Yalies to volunteer throughout the Elm City.
101 volunteers spent their time at one of nine partner sites across the city, including Amistad, New Haven Land Trust and the New Haven/Leon Sister City Project. This year marks the second year that Dwight Hall has partnered with the First-Year College Council to allocate 50 points for each volunteer to their respective residential college team for the First-Year Olympics.
“We run institutional programs in a way to provide opportunities to service in different capacities, whether you’d rather do it one time for the Day of Service or have a long term commitment,” said Kelly Li ’20, the institutional service coordinator for Dwight Hall.
The service organizations vary from recurring Dwight Hall partners to annual events in need of some help. Since many organizations have programs and events that last over a longer time span, one difficulty Li had was finding programs that allowed for the one-day short-term commitment.
This year’s turnout was a success. One hundred and thirty students registered to participate with a little over 100 actually participating. With 81 participants, first years made up the majority of volunteers. The turnout also included 11 upper-level students and nine site leaders. Li said that one of the main goals for Day of Service is to have a more diverse representation of different groups. In the past, Dwight Hall has attempted to fulfill this goal by partnering with various cultural centers.
According to Li, Dwight Hall partnerships have helped make outreach easier — the relationship with First-Year College Council helps create an incentive for students to come out and take pride in volunteering for their college.
“I didn’t know they were doing [Day of Service] until I got the email about this and First-Year Olympics,” said Jillian Albrecht ’22, a first-year volunteer. “I decided this would be my contribution to Olympics and that it’d be something really fun to do.”
Each site is facilitated by a site leader who organizes the volunteers and coordinates transportation. One site leader, Jose Garcia ’22, who is also a production and design staffer for the News, spoke about the personal connection he made with a New Haven resident while working in the garden in Amistad.
The goal in choosing programs to partner with is to get a broad representation of the different causes in New Haven and figure out where help is needed the most, Li said. Oftentimes, this work is not a “glorified” kind of volunteering but rather smaller tasks like picking up trash. Li hopes that volunteers understand that they are serving whatever needs are most important to these organizations.
Albrecht, one of the volunteers, said she spent the morning volunteering at the New Haven Land Trust picking up trash along the shore and said that she thought the experience was “really fun.” She was particularly astounded by the amount of trash on the beach.
“A lot of times we only hear about very select and very isolated cases of community work in New Haven. It’s often social justice–based and that’s tremendously great work being done, but a lot of times people don’t have the knowledge about different nonprofits that are in crucial need of more volunteers to bring their efforts into fruition,” Garcia said. “Day of Service provides that introduction to the community partners who have this demonstrated need.”
Other service sites included Beecher Park-Mitchell Library, Eli Whitney Museum and the Hamden job fair.
Kelly Wei | firstname.lastname@example.org