Spurred on by a desire to help nearby neighbors recover from the devastation of Tuesday night’s storm, dozens and dozens of Keuka College students and staff got to work Wednesday clearing out muddy debris in the village of Penn Yan.
A morning email alert sent to all members of the campus community served as a call for volunteers. Due to travel warnings in effect, the College announced shuttle runs every two hours to safely transport any willing workers to posts in town. Rev. Eric Detar, the College chaplain, said he and two other staffers rode in on the first shuttle at 11 a.m.
About a dozen volunteers – mostly students – arrived on the 1 p.m. shuttle but after additional emails from the vice presidents of student affairs and academic affairs encouraging student and faculty support, more volunteers arrived at the shuttle pickup area outside Saunders hall. So many showed up to work, the original schedule was scrapped and shuttles started running every 30 minutes.
“I bet we’ve had between 75-100 volunteers help out,” Detar said by phone about 4:15 p.m. from his post on Main Street. “There’s 10 students walking by me right now, covered in mud.”
The first local business to receive help was the Once Again Shoppe, where volunteers salvaged what they could from thousands of dollars worth of damaged toys stored in the consignment shop’s basement. The toys were earmarked for the annual Christmas for the Needy annual benefit drive – a hallmark in the Penn Yan community – and most of them had to be thrown away in giant dumpsters, Detar said. After the damaged goods were removed, volunteers used Shop-Vacs and shovels to tackle the mud.
“It was just so sad to see all the hard work get ruined, because [Christmas for the Needy] is a huge part of this community,” said Mitch Leet ’16, who has served two years as a community service advocate for the College, and just this year, coordinated the campus’s Angel Tree gift drive. “We were asking people what others could do to help them replace this inventory.”
Detar said College relief efforts were concentrated mostly on local businesses, with College volunteers laboring to removing debris from flooded basements and other low-lying storage areas hit hard by the storm. Workers came to the aid of those at Calvary Chapel of Penn Yan, Deano’s Outdoors store, and the Penn Yan Diner, where some nine feet of water had rushed through the basement, Detar said. The diner is operated by College alumnae Carrie Ahearn.
“Right now, they’ve got an assembly line sending stuff up – it’s mud and trash – from the basement to the dumpster,” he said. “We’ve been working in Long’s bookstore, too, and there’s tons of stuff that needs to be thrown out. Plus, we’ve had students walk through the streets with grocery carts, distributing bottled water and snacks. They’ve talked to some families and helped them a bit.”
Leet and a handful of other student volunteers wound up at the Sampson Theater, where some sets were so waterlogged, “they had to be trashed. It was just awful – people were sinking through the floorboards. The theater wasn’t in great condition to begin with and now this.”
Freshmen Rachel Hurley and Laura Alderson, both occupational science majors, reported for service around 3 p.m. and were also part of the group helping clean out the theater. The two found themselves in a nearby barn, helping unload pickup trucks carting wet wood and salvaged set pieces from the theater into temporary storage.
Hurley said seeing photos online of the devastation prompted her to action. Much of this storm damage reminded Hurley of the flooding many in her hometown of Sayre, Penn. experienced about three years ago in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, she said. At that time, much of the Southern Tier, including cities like Binghamton and Owego, N.Y., were under water for weeks. Alderson’s hometown lies in Warren Center, Penn. and she said she felt awful for those in Penn Yan who could not even leave their houses because the mouths of their driveways were washed away in the storm.
“I feel like I’ve taken advantage of all their amenities at Tops or other stores and now I actually get to give back and help them out,” Alderson said. “On the way back, we were riding in the back of the pickup truck and there were several citizens in Penn Yan sitting on their porches, waving to us and calling out ‘Thank you kids, so much!’ It was precious.”
Closer to campus, the handful of volunteers Leet served with Wednesday wound up at a West Lake Road home, assisting an older couple whose garage had filled with debris as water rushed down the steep hills across Route 54A and through their backyards.
“The water is not rushing as much now, but there are still ‘waterfalls’ coming down in some places, and the road was just filled with debris. We had to hold hands to get across it, and I forgot for a second we were walking in the middle of a road because there was so much water,” Leet said, adding that the couple asked for help documenting the damage for insurance purposes. “They just had mud everywhere in the garage. I took pictures of everything.”
Despite the devastation, working together with fellow students to help neighbors in need, helped Hurley bond with those in the campus community, she said, adding how many faces she was happy she recognized today.
“I think that we realize we can all come together to help people out,” Hurley said.
Community service is a hallmark of Keuka College with numerous clubs and groups conducting service projects and fundraisers throughout the academic year. The College even hosts an annual county-wide day of service, in conjunction with the Yates County Chamber of Commerce, known as Celebrate Service … Celebrate Yates (CSCY). The strong focus on community service has helped earn the College a spot on the U.S. President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for the past seven years.
Detar said College relief efforts would continue Thursday and officials were waiting to hear if support would also be needed at Camp Good Days and Special Times in Branchport, which had reportedly been hit hard as well. Additional emails from campus officials indicated volunteer service shuttles will again run every half-hour, starting at 9 a.m. with the final shuttle returning to campus at 5 p.m.
By Mike Kelly ’14
On Sunday, under sunny skies, more than 218 volunteers – from community members to College students, faculty and staff – spread across 20 non-profit work sites in Yates County to complete community service for the 17th annual Celebrate Service…Celebrate Yates (CSCY) event. Those are the largest numbers of volunteers for the day of service since its record-breaking 248 volunteers back in 2010.
A collaboration between Keuka College and the Yates County Chamber of Commerce, CSCY is the one day each year when volunteers join hands across the community to serve the county’s non-profit agencies, completing tasks such as raking, cleaning, repairing and painting. This year’s work sites included camps (Camp Cory, Camp Koinonia, Camp Iroquois), cemeteries (St. Michael’s Cemetery, Evergreen Cemetery), and other non-profit organizations such as Milly’s Pantry, Penn Yan Ambulance Corps., and the Izaak Walton League chapter clubhouse in Guyanoga.
First-time volunteer and Yates County District Attorney Valerie Gardner said she was “thrilled to assist in community projects that benefit us all.”
Gardner’s entire office staff participated this year, handling spring cleaning tasks at the Arts Center of Yates County Sunny Point location in Dundee. According to Gardner, the event served as a “good way to connect [Keuka College and Yates County] and to foster good interaction.”
Given the severity of the winter weather this year, Rev. Eric Detar, co-chair of the CSCY steering committee and chaplain for Keuka College, said he was initially nervous that extended wintry conditions might hinder volunteers from completing the full array of work – often outdoors – that non-profits count on each spring. But with near 60-degree temperatures and sunny skies at the youth baseball complex on Elm Street in Penn Yan, where he was serving with others, Detar let out a sigh of relief.
“It was a beautiful day because the weather was perfect and the community worked together,” Detar said, adding that when it comes to CSCY, he holds firm to a 1968 quote from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve…you only need a heart full of grace.”
Over at the ARC of Yates on Hamilton Street, Mike Wainwright ’15, was also upbeat, pleased that the weather held out for the day.
“It was nice to be out in the sun and enjoy the day and work with your hands—and nice to be outside after a week of studying,” Wainwright said.
Working in a garden nearby was Haley Jordan ’15, who recently returned from Costa Rica, where the College’s Alternative Spring Break team had conducted community service during the final week of March.
“While there, we talked about how to give back at home and that got me motivated to come back and do community service locally,” said Jordan, a first-year volunteer.
Eric Saltrelli ’15 was also part of the group of CSCY volunteers helping the ARC clean up garden beds and lay sod to prepare for spring.
“I just like to help out the community and help those who can’t necessarily do this and make their surroundings look nice,” the first-year volunteer said, adding: “Any chance I get, I want to help out.”
Around the county, volunteer teams also participated in the first-ever CSCY Selfie Contest, snapping photos of themselves at work sites. Some of the selfies entered into the contest included one of Jordan stepping inside a tall blue recycling bin, Richard Weit ’15 posing with lost shoes on a pole at Camp Cory and the district attorney’s team getting in the spirit with a CSCY committee member at Sunny Point. Selfies were posted across the Instagram, Facebook and Twitter social media platforms and two winners were selected, one winning a Dunkin Donuts gift card and another an iTunes gift card.
CSCY received additional help from a number of Keuka College student athletes who volunteered as teams to serve at Camp Cory. The efforts of collegiate student athletes were mirrored by their high school counterparts, as more than a dozen volunteers affiliated with the Penn Yan Academy baseball teams pitched in at Camp Koinonia in Italy Valley.
Molly McGugian, a Keuka College alumnus and now manager of the College’s Teamworks! Adventure course also assisted at Camp Cory. As a student, McGuigan volunteered with CSCY and was excited to come back to serve her community Sunday.
“It’s a great opportunity for our athletes to get a different look at the community we are in,” she said, adding, “It’s great to see people are still enthusiastic and willing to help.”
This year, CSCY was supported through the generous donations and in-kind goods and services of the following sponsors and business merchants: ARC of Yates County, AVI Fresh Catering, Eaves Family Dental Group, Esperanza Mansion, Ferro, Fitzgerald Brothers, Keuka College Campus Safety, and the Office of Alumni and Family Relations; Knapp and Schlappi, Knights of Columbus, K-Ventures, Lyons National Bank, Ricoh, Roto-Salt, Seneca Lake Duck Hunters Association, Stork Insurance Agency, Tony Collins Class of ’77 Celebrity Gold Classic, and the Yates County Chamber of Commerce.
Painting fences on a farm that teaches farming skills to men rehabilitating from drugs and alcohol doesn’t sound like a typical activity for college students on spring break.
Neither does working at a home for boys, from 8-18 years old, teaching them English and playing volleyball, basketball, Frisbee, and soccer with them.
But that is just what a dozen Keuka College students will do as part of the College’s annual Alternative Spring Break when they travel to Quesada, Costa Rica March 20-27. These students will not be working on their suntans. They will simply be working—hard.
Hosted by Mary Curtiss Miller ’53 and her husband Ralph, and led by Rev. Eric Detar, Keuka College chaplain and director of the Center for Spiritual Life, and Tim White, assistant director of residential life and director of the Success Advocates, the students are part of Alternative Spring Break’s first international edition. The Millers have been missionaries in Costa Rica for more than 50 years.
“When Tim and I first began leading Alternative Spring Break trips four years ago, they were seemingly random, but we always found someone, and some way, to help,” said Detar. “We are beginning to become more strategic in our trips, and we want to offer four unique experiences throughout a student’s years at Keuka College. We hope to offer trips in an urban setting, an environmental setting, a rural setting, and an international trip. During each trip, we will look at culture, stewardship, and poverty of each area we visit.”
Junior Faith Garlington is particularly excited about working at the home for boys.
“As an occupational science major, I am interested to see the differences between how the boys play as to how kids in America play,” said Garlington, a Boonville resident. “I want to see how and when they reach their milestones in a culture that is different from mine. I am excited to connect what I have learned in the classroom with what I will see.”
Katie Crossley, a sophomore unified early childhood education major from Panama, N.Y. chose to participate in Alternative Spring Break because she believes she felt “a calling to go and is exactly where I am supposed to be in my life right now,” while Bloomfield resident Jeff Miller says he wants to reorient himself.
“It’s so easy to get caught up in your own world and forget that we are more fortunate than a lot of others in the world,” said the junior occupational science major. “I am grateful for what I have.”
For Lindsay Holmes, a senior occupational science major from West Henrietta, this is her second Alternative Spring Break trip.
“I went on the trip to Washington, DC last year, and experienced the culture of the homeless; it was eye-opening,” she said. “I think this will be similar, but on a larger scale.”
Emily Grecco, a sophomore psychology major from Waverly and Haley Jordan, a junior occupational science major from Auburn, agree that participating in Alternative Spring Break will be a reality check.
“I will be helping people with something they need, and not just be on another vacation where I am a tourist,” said Grecco.
“It’s easy to think that that one person can’t have much of an impact, but we’ve seen from past trips that it’s not true. I am so glad that I will not be a tourist and that I will get to interact with the people on a greater level,” said White.
While the students will not be tourists, they will be able to explore the country through activities such as speeding down a zip line, go horseback riding, swimming in the hot springs of Arenal Volcano, and visiting Sarchi, a quaint painted oxcart village. The group will also participate in worship services at a Methodist Church.
Other students participating include: Emily Pidgeon, a junior social work major from Oneonta; Rachel Guthrie, a junior child and family studies major from North Rose; Ashley Terry, a sophomore political science and history major from Andes; Emily Black, a sophomore political science and history major from Athens, Pa.; Jenny Schafer, a junior occupational science major from Fayetteville; and Patricia Wallace, a senior occupational science major from Bath.
Vanessa Coy was “devastated” when she learned about the powerful typhoon that struck her native Philippines last week.
Her first concern was for her relatives—aunts, uncles, and others—who lived in towns and cities that felt the brutal force of Typhoon Haiyan, which brought sustained 147 mile-per-hour winds, 45-foot waves, and more than 15 inches of rain to some areas.
“Everyone is OK,” said Coy, a senior adolescent education major from Wellsville who came to the United States at a young age.
Coy was born in Olangapo City, a city located in the province of Zambales, northwest of the Philippine capital of Manila.
“My relatives in Zambales were not hit, but my family in Manila was,” said Coy. “I recently found out they lost their beach homes, farm animals, everything. They are relying on U.S. troops to supply first aid, food, and water.”
That information came from a cousin in Japan, according to Coy.
“We have not been able to get through [to our relatives],” said Coy, who last visited the Philippines in 2012. “We have sent money, but don’t know if they received it.”
Officials estimate that at least 4,200 people were killed and three million displaced. Nearly 500,000 homes were damaged.
The Center for Spiritual Life is leading a Keuka College drive to raise funds for the Philippines through ShelterBox USA (http://shelterboxusa.org). ShelterBox is an international organization that “responds instantly after natural and other disasters by delivering boxes of aid to those who need it most. Each ShelterBox supplies an extended family with a tent and essential equipment to use while they are displaced or homeless.”
A complete box costs $1,000 “but we will donate whatever funds we raise,” said Rev. Eric Detar, College chaplain.
Donations (cash or check) may be dropped off in the Center for Spiritual Life (Dahlstrom 13). Checks should be made payable to “Keuka College” (indicate Shelter Box – Philippines in the memo line).
“In the past, our community has come together to support those around the world who have been devastated through natural disasters,” said Rev. Eric Detar, College chaplain. “We responded when the earthquake crippled Haiti and the tsunami hit Japan. Today, we have the opportunity to come alongside the people of the Philippines, who were hit so hard by Typhoon Haiyan.”
Coy is appreciative of the College’s ShelterBox initiative and said there is one other thing people can do to help.
“The Filipino people have a very religious background,” she explained, ”and they need every prayer they can get because it is going to take years to rebuild the country.”
Keuka College honored veterans and active duty personnel with a Nov. 11 ceremony held in Hegeman 109 and on the lawn near the World War II memorial.
The ceremony featured remarks by College President Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera; Chris Leahy, associate professor of history; Sander Diamond, professor of history; and Linda Park, director of Lightner Library. Eric Detar, College chaplain, offered a prayer of remembrance, and members of the Penn Yan VFW Honor Guard also took part.
Before the ceremony, members of the College and area community signed some 580 holiday cards that will be sent to veterans and active-duty service personnel across America and abroad.
Part of the American Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes program, the College campaign was sponsored by the Staff Advisory Council’s (SAC) Events Committee, co-chaired by Paulette Willemsen, secretary for the Division of Education and Division of Social Work, and BJ Hill, office manager for student affairs.
“Writing cards to our service men and women is a good way to spread holiday cheer and make them feel appreciated,” said Willemsen.
Vicki Tobias, database administrator and committee member, agrees.
“I had four brothers, a sister, and now a niece and nephew serve in the military, and I appreciate what they have done and continue to do,” she said.
Committee member Judy Gilmartin, administrative programmer, said writing her name on the cards “makes a more personal contact with a veteran, and I believe everyone should think about all of those in the service, not just those we know.”
Senior Caroline Arancio, an organizational communication major from Clinton, took time to sign a card because her best friend just returned from basic training, and “I want him to know that I am proud of him and support him.”
Olivia Hudson, a junior occupational science major from Adams, “doesn’t think the people in the military get enough credit for all they do,” while Bryan Chaffee, a sophomore criminal justice/criminology major from Keuka Park, wanted to “thank those who fight for our freedom.”
Aubrey Clark, a sophomore occupational science major from Fillmore; Dani Alred, a junior organizational communication major from Horseheads; Emily Grecco, a sophomore psychology major from Waverly; Jakiem Brown, a junior educational studies major from Rochester; Nicole Naidoo, a sophomore accounting major from Durban, South Africa; and Melissa Whipple, a sophomore psychology major from Victor all wanted to sign a card to show their appreciation for the service our military personnel provides.
Those who took part were asked to write a short message and sign their name on a card. In addition to writing messages and signing their names, many members of the campus and local community donated cards, including students at Keuka Lake School and Prattsburgh Central School, residents of Clinton Crest Manor, and participants in College’s Big Brothers Big Sisters program.