By: Anna Simoes
Western Connecticut State University’s Western Day of Service came and went this past Friday, with hundreds of students and faculty from across the university’s departments showing up, ready to help.
The Western Day of Service encourages the university’s faculty and students alike to volunteer and help dozens of not-for-profit organizations based around Danbury.
“You could sign up to do a variety of different things such as raking, trimming, and/or weeding trails, sanding and/or painting, serving food, parking cars, registering dancers, cleaning offices, washing fire trucks, moving boxes, tagging books, working with animals or picking up trash along the streets of Danbury” [x].
The Western event started around 8am in White Hall, bright yellow shirts popping up left and right as participants registered for the day of community service. Behind the tables were WCSU’s very own cheerleading team directing volunteers around the room to gather supplies – including gloves, trash bags, t-shirts, meal tickets, and even a free breakfast – all set up to get the volunteers ready for the day.
The remainder of this article details the author’s experience.
After being given our tools, we set off to our respective groups; whether a student club, class, or friends who gathered together to volunteer. The hallway outside of the registration room was packed with people raising their signs high so everyone could find where they needed to be. The crowd only cleared out once it was time to hear our pep talk with President Clark and Eden Edwards-Harris.
Participants filed into the room, pop songs playing on the speakers, coffee cups in hand, and a dazed, early morning feeling covering the room. Eden enthusiastically spoke into the microphone, waking up a couple of dozing students in the audience, to welcome and thank us all for coming to another year of the Western Day of Service.
The speech between Eden and President Clark gave us a sense of how the day was going to go, with a photo shoot and lunch added into the itinerary. After a few motivational words to get us going, we were off to our next stop; a group photo.
It took a couple minutes of hushing and speaking loudly into a megaphone for the volunteers to settle in on the front steps of White Hall. Despite the jumble, the photos went by as well as one could do while wrangling hundreds of people.
Afterward, we were finally separated into our respective groups and guided to each bus, based on our destinations, if we so chose. My group from the Writing Center decided to take the trek by car, finally splitting from the herd and going off on our mission.
We were lucky enough to work with RebelsCare, a non-profit organization founded to give teenagers and adults an opportunity to help those in need around the New Fairfield area. They help with projects that involve lawn care, home repair, and even installation of smoke detectors for senior citizens in the community.
As we drove up to the given address, we came upon a good number of people already hard at work attending windows, hedges, and patching walls. At first, it all felt a little overwhelming.
We were greeted almost immediately by RebelsCare President Debbie Blum, and Treasurer Brian Blum. Both Debbie and Brian were ready to get us working. The time to feel overwhelmed was long gone and replaced by a sense of readiness to work.
We were helping a 90-year-old elderly couple that needed some assistance arranging their house and lawn, making hedging our team’s first order of business.
Hedge trimmers and rakes in tow, we all worked together to get the front of the house looking trimmed and clean. Throughout the day, our tasks progressed from the hedging to helping those working on windows, pulling weeds, and more. The members of our group split up and did what we could in the three hours we were allotted and felt as much a part of the RebelsCare group as any of their core members throughout our community service. With Debbie and Bill guiding us, Doris McDermott helping and cheering us on, and those who helped carry a tarp of branches, we were a team.
Our time reached a close, and by the end of it, we made a solid dent in the mountain of work that still needed to be done. However, the end of our day did not stop the RebelsCare group from expressing their gratitude to us, and us to them for allowing us to be a part of such a wonderful project.
We returned back to campus, tired and ready to eat, with a newfound sense of pride for what we had the opportunity to do. It was hard work, but when surrounded by a great group of friends and colleagues, it did not seem so hard after all.