It’s a cold day in Buffalo, typical for this industrial city, which is dusted with a fine coat of snow. Traversing the numerous buildings and animal habitats at the Buffalo Zoo, but sporting warm and cheerful smiles, are Ashley Hager and Megan Hilsdorf, junior biochemistry majors at Keuka College.
Both put in 8-hour-a-day, 6-day work weeks for three weeks in January to conduct 140-hour, Field Period internships at the zoo. While Hager spent most of her time in the Reptile House, working in the Hellbendar (salamander) acquatics lab, Hilsdorf worked with primates, birds and other animals in the M&T Rainforest Falls exhibit. Both were exposed to sections of the zoo the public never sees, such as where specialized meals are prepared for each exhibit, animals receive any needed veterinary care, and babies are are kept until they are old enough to venture out into the display habitats.
Thanks to a relative of Hilsdorf’s who offered use of his Buffalo apartment for three weeks when he wasn’t going to be there, both girls were able to stay in the city and commute to the zoo each day for the internship, which is an annual part of every Keuka student’s graduation requirements.
“They’re so short-staffed, and they told us we’ve been a big help,” said Hager.
Over the many years that Celebrate Service … Celebrate Yates (CSCY) has been held, Robin Hoppe can only remember one year when the non-profit she works for did not request CSCY volunteers to come carry out yard work and other repair tasks on the annual day of service.
“I think we missed one because I lost of the track of the date,” said Hoppe, program supervisor for the three Catholic Charities residential homes in Penn Yan. The homes are part of 10 operated by the Diocese of Rochester in Yates, Wayne and Monroe Counties for adults with varying degrees of developmental disabilities.
Like other Yates County non-profits, the “to-do” list is generally longer than the volunteers available to complete needed service, so CSCY—to be held this year on Sunday, April 22—provides a much-needed helping hand to non-profits.
And the theme of CSCY, “Hands Across Yates County,” is as true today as it was nearly 15 years ago when the annual day of community service began as a joint project between Keuka College and the Yates County Chamber of Commerce. Last year, some 280 volunteers, comprised of Keuka students, families, youth and seniors, joined hands to conduct minor repairs, washing, cleaning, outdoor work and other needed tasks for some 30 non-profits – including camps, churches, fire houses, cemeteries, public trails and more—across the county.
“We schedule projects that are ones we never seem to get to, unless planned out like this,” said Hoppe, adding that requested service is usually for yard work such as clearing garden beds at two of the three properties. One house, at 219 Main St., often has its porch furniture polished by CSCY volunteers, and the special treatment lasts through the next year, she said.
Last year, CSCY volunteers began painting the porch of one home, getting the project “off to a good start,” Hoppe said. “It gave us the impetus to get it finished.”
Partnerships are key to the success of CSCY. College and community leaders team up to plan the event, with the College coordinating volunteers and transportation, and the Chamber of Commerce seeking business and service sponsors.
One of those sponsors 15 years ago was the former Clearplas Containers Inc., later acquired by Silgan Plastics.
“As one of the biggest businesses in town, we were an active supporter. We were involved in that partnership from Day One,” recalled Don Oakleaf, a Clearplas/Silgan employee who had also been inducted into the Penn Yan Rotary through former College President Art Kirk Jr.
Fellow Rotarians Sue Anderson of Lyons National Bank and Stacy Wyant of Stork Insurance helped their companies get involved as sponsors too, he said.
As for Oakleaf, he found himself coordinating the Rotary’s portion of CSCY service, where Rotary volunteers bag some 500 seedlings for elementary schoolchildren to plant in honor of Arbor Day, as well as clean a portion of Route 54A, from the water plant at the edge of the village down to Keuka’s Central Avenue “entrance.”
While the Rotary Club conducts its community service on a different Saturday in April than the “official” CSCY Sunday of service when all other volunteers meet and pitch in, the Rotarians are veteran partners in the service, donning the CSCY T-shirts as they, too, put many hands together to make light work.
“We make sure every second-grader in Penn Yan goes home with a bag with three to four seedlings ready to plant,” Oakleaf said. This year may well be the first when the Rotary’s CSCY Saturday and the “official” CSCY Sunday occur back-to-back.
“That approach has been the same for the full 15 years. We [Penn Yan Rotary] have been involved since the beginning,” he said.
Oakleaf said that if he has one “overriding thought” about CSCY, it’s “the overwhelming amount of community spirit involved in the Yates County community. This is one excellent example of the coordinated impact that people can make if they get together and work on it.”
After watching how the Catholic Charities group home residents are also able to work side-by-side the CSCY volunteers when they arrive, Hoppe agrees.
“One of our missions is to include and integrate the folks we serve — the residents at these homes— in the community. The residents help and there’s a real partnership there of working together,” Hoppe said. “We just wish [CSCY] could be longer – it’s never quite enough time – it just flies by!”
Through Friday, those interested in volunteering for this year’s event can submit their commitment form to Keuka College in time to receive a souvenir T-shirt marking the 15th anniversary. Additional volunteers are welcome to sign up, or even walk-in the day of the event, but T-shirts cannot be guaranteed. Lunch at Keuka is also included before volunteers receive transportation to the various work sites. Registration and lunch begins at 11 a.m. at Dahlstrom Student Center Sunday, April 22. Following a brief opening ceremony at 1 p.m., volunteers disperse to conduct community service work from 1:30 – 4:30 p.m.
Also through Friday, non-profit agencies in Yates County eager to receive service the day of the event as an official work site may contact McKala Accetura or Case Hamilton at (315) 279-5397 or email firstname.lastname@example.org