August 16, 2008
SUNY students lend a hand around town
3 projects benefit the Cortland Youth Bureau, county Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
SUNY Cortland junior Brandon Herwick wheels away a load of gravel Friday while working with other student resident advisors on multiple landscaping projects for a Habitat for Humanity home belonging to the Coville family in Cortland.
SUNY Cortland’s students set out with the “hands-on” approach Friday for their community service projects.
Student staff members, such as resident assistants, administrative assistants and academic peer mentors, are required to participate in service projects with their residents during the school year.
This is the first year of service projects during the summer. One hundred thirty-four students participated Friday.
“This year, instead of telling them about projects, we had them go out and do it themselves,” Cindy Lake, associate director of resident services, said.
Projects involved the Cortland Youth Bureau, American Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity of Tompkins and Cortland counties. Lake said they tried to identify organizations that the college has worked with before that would provide a greater benefit for the community.
Working at their various locations from 9 a.m. to noon, the students were divided into groups and got right to work.
The Red Cross project involved giving an old conference room a much-needed overhaul.
Bonnie Ann Heath, executive director for the Cortland County Chapter of the American Red Cross, said there was a major need to make the room nicer and reduce the dust and overall stuffiness.
Students cleared out old tables and chairs, and tore out the old dust-ridden carpet.
Heath said fixing up the room would allow Red Cross staff to take better advantage of what is in the building.
“We need all the space that’s available to us,” Heath said.
Jesse Companaro, a sophomore first-year resident assistant, said he was excited about the opportunity to help the Red Cross.
“It makes you feel good to do this because it’s an organization that helps people,” he said.
He added that the hardest part of the job was carving off the carpet glue from the bare floor, which would be repainted.
A larger group of more than 20 students took to the task of beautifying the exterior of a Habitat for Humanity house on Fox Hollow Road built in 2006.
Habitat for Humanity volunteer Andrea Rankin said the house was built for a family of five, and that the organization will send workers to finish whatever work the college students are unable to complete. Rankin supervised the college students.
“The great thing about this kind of work is that you get to see a product, and meet wonderful people,” she said.
The project was twofold: first to mulch the front garden and trees and repaint the shutters, and second to clear out the rocky slope behind the house.
Flowers and shrubbery were donated to adorn the garden surrounding the house by the Cornell University Grounds Department, Rankin said.
Mark Morrell, a senior and an administrative assistant, said that despite the seemingly overwhelming task at hand, the job was going fairly quickly with the number of people on hand.
“You keep digging, but there’s always more rocks to clear out,” he said.
Carting out piles of rocks and piling them neatly in the back of the yard, a probable goal would be for the homeowner to build a rock support wall for the sloping yard, Jesse Kimmerle, a residence hall director, said.
“I never realized the amount of work that goes into a house,” Ashley Hudson, a senior resident assistant said. She added it felt good to be helping a family create a better home for its children.
Kimmerle said doing these projects has been an excellent way to put students’ organizational skills and leadership training to good use.
“It’s our way to show what we can do with our programming for the community,” Kimmerle said.
At Dexter Park, students repainted old playground equipment for the Cortland Youth Bureau.
“They did a great job, I was very pleased with their efforts,” Youth Bureau Director John McNerny said. “It’s much appreciated and demonstrates the positive impact the college has on our community.”
Lake said the summer service projects would be a continuing tradition in years to come.
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