Caldwell, N.J. – Oct. 1, 2018 – While volunteering at the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, student Sagar Basaula decided to take 10 minutes out to walk around and look closely at what the other Caldwell students and faculty and staff members were doing on the warehouse floor. “Everyone was packing boxes with love and compassion because they genuinely wanted to,” he said. Basaula’s group put together 506 boxes for 506 families as part of the university’s annual day of service, Caldwell Day.
Basaula was one of approximately 230 members of the Caldwell campus community who took part in the 10th annual event on Sept. 28 for which classes are canceled and participants volunteer at nonprofit organizations in Essex County and elsewhere in the state.
Nancee Roth, coordinator of tutoring services, and student Emmanuel Steplight visited the homebound through St. Aloysius parish in Caldwell. Roth said the people they visited appreciated any communication; they were happy to have someone listen to them and to receive a compliment. The takeaway for Roth was that a smile or a positive comment can mean a great deal even in a simple encounter like meeting someone in the store. She appreciated volunteering with Steplight, who is blind. “The spirit she brings, the kindness she shows inspires me. She indicated that through this experience she wants to continue visiting the homebound,” said Roth.
Quinn DeLaRosa and Bianca Ho served at FilmAcademy360 in Livingston, which teaches high school and college age students on the autism spectrum skills in filmmaking, video editing, game creation, and graphic arts. The two assisted the academy staff in producing a video by handling production duties such as running the teleprompter, operating the camera and coaching the learners in on-air skills. For Ho, who is planning to work in the art therapy field, the most important aspect was how she quickly felt a part of the learners’ community. “They helped us easily know their world.” DeLaRosa was moved by how the learners were comfortable being themselves. “To see how cheerful these people are shows how much we overcomplicate things.”
David DiIanni, director of the academy, said having the Caldwell volunteers was very good for his students because they learn to engage with people from the community. It is beneficial for the learners to work with peer mentors, he said, and it is helpful to the academy to make connections to build their program.
Cathy Lundquist, an adjunct faculty member in education, volunteered at Our Lady Help of Christians in East Orange and met Sister Pat Hogan, O.P., the principal— “an amazing woman. I was grateful and honored to have worked with her.”
Many of the Caldwell volunteers were inspired by the care and commitment they saw from those who run the nonprofits. Student Deanne Murray served at the historic Kingsland Manor in Nutley and was impressed with the passion of staff members, who “enjoyed restoring, inviting everyone in, and know the history.” Madison Perry worked with the Caldwell Environmental Center, moving mulch, pulling up weeds, and cleaning. “I saw a lot of passion from those who work at the pollinator garden.” As a biology major, she was happy to experience a variety of bugs, plants, and species.
A group of alumni from the Shore Chapter, along with Sharon Dwyer from the university’s Development and Alumni Affairs Office, volunteered at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic School in Asbury Park, NJ doing art projects and helping out in the classrooms.
Colleen O’Brien, director of campus ministry, said the university engages in volunteerism as part of its Catholic Dominican mission of service. St. Dominic stressed “the importance of bringing light to a world in darkness,” she said, and the university encourages members of its community to do that in whatever way they are called whether in service or in other walks of life.
The other nonprofits they served were:
The Caldwell Fire Department
Jefferson Elementary School
Grover Cleveland Park Conservancy
Caldwell Public Library
Academy 360 Lower School
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Essex Fells, NJ
Volunteers also took part in campus cleanup and preparation for the Midnight Run in New York City. Caldwell University President Nancy Blattner began Caldwell Day her first year at Caldwell in 2009 as part of the mission of the Catholic Dominican university. One of the four Dominican pillars is service.