Caldwell, N.J., Oct. 2, 2017 – When he walked down Roseland Avenue in Caldwell, Orges Rrapay was always curious about the inner workings of the Caldwell Volunteer Fire Department. The Caldwell University student got a chance to learn about the operation Sept. 29 when he and other students and faculty volunteered at the firehouse for Caldwell Day, the university’s annual day of community service.
They cleaned the fire trucks and were given a tour. For Rrapay, who is from Albania, it was gratifying to see the dedication of the fire department. He felt a sense of community that said, “We are here in good days and bad days, even when a fire occurs.” The firehouse was just one of several community groups and nonprofits where 243 Caldwell students, faculty and staff used their hands and hearts to put into action the university’s Catholic Dominican pillar of service.
A large group volunteered at the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, organizing packages for people in Puerto Rico hit by Hurricane Maria. Omar Henegan, a supervisor at the FoodBank who managed the Caldwell group, was grateful for the volunteers, telling them, “We thank you so much for your time and opportunity to come help sort this food out with us.”
Elementary education and psychology major Erin Flohr volunteered at Academy Lower School in Verona, which serves children on the autism spectrum and with behavioral and related disabilities. As a future teacher, Flohr found it rewarding to teach a child how to say a word, and it was also a good experience to observe “how passionate and patient” the teachers were.
Science Department faculty member Dr. Marjorie Squires and some students volunteered at the ARC of Essex County Stepping Stones School, which provides services for children with Down syndrome from ages 3 to 10. Squires was impressed by the dedication of the teachers and by the children’s joy. “I’m uplifted. My soul is happy and light.” Oluwatosin Adebiyi, a nursing student, said she saw how “unique and special” each child was. Judy Bellina, a Caldwell University alumna who is coordinator of volunteer, community and parent outreach at Stepping Stones, was glad to welcome volunteers from her alma mater and to let others in the community see what the school provides.
Another group volunteered at St. Francis Xavier School in Newark, turning a storage room into a music room. At first the sight of the jam-packed room was overwhelming, but as student Brandi-Lee Brochu found, in the end it was a good feeling to know they had finished the job and had gotten the room ready for the music teacher, Erin Fitzpatrick, a recent Caldwell University alumna.
A group of alumni, along with Sharon Dwyer from the CU Development and Alumni Affairs Office, volunteered at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic School in Asbury Park doing art projects and helping out in the classrooms.
Quin DeLaRosa and a group of students and faculty volunteered digging and turning over soil for the Caldwell Environmental Commission at the pollinator garden on Personnette Street. He summed up the day well for all the volunteers. Even if the work seemed mundane, he said, in the end it’s important to think “about the impact it has on people and our responsibility to the world around us.”
Groups also volunteered at:
- Film Academy 360
- Caring Closet in Madison
- Caldwell Public Library
- St. Aloysius Parish, Caldwell
- Our Lady of Czestochowa School, Jersey City
- Grover Cleveland Park Conservancy
- Calvary Lutheran Church, Verona
- Kingsland Manor
- Our Lady Help of Christians, East Orange
- Caring Closet with Jersey Cares (Dress for Success)
- Academy360 Upper School
- And in campus clean-ups.
Caldwell Day is an annual tradition that the Caldwell community looks forward to. It was begun by President Nancy Blattner when she came to Caldwell in 2009.