Caldwell, N.J., – More than 200 faculty, staff and students took part in Caldwell Service Day volunteering to help out non-profit and community organizations. Classes were canceled for the annual event which was first held in 2009.
The Student Center gym was filled with enthusiasm as volunteers packaged 17,064 meals for Rise Against Hunger, an organization that serves medical clinics, vocational training programs, schools and elderly care facilities around the world. “It might be one day of joy for us but it is a year of food preparation for every person who receives the packages. I pray that whoever receives the package can feel that joy. And I pray that they never go hungry,” said Andrei St. Felix, director of the University’s Educational Opportunity Fund program. Each box contained enough ingredients for a child to have a meal in school for a year.
Sophomore Ted Saintil said it would have been easy to stay in bed when classes were canceled but instead he got himself up to take part in his first service day. He joined other volunteers in addressing postcards for the Center for Common Ground, part of Reclaim Our Vote, a non-partisan voting rights initiative aimed at reaching underrepresented voters. “I don’t know the impact I had but I probably will reach someone who was not considering voting and will consider voting…it felt great.” Now he is looking forward to engaging in more community service projects that Caldwell University offers. Senior Raul Gonzalez, president of the Student Government Association, also volunteered with the postcard project. He said it provided a good opportunity to reflect on how, as young people, students can begin to make slight changes by starting conversations with others.
Robin Davenport, executive director of the Counseling Center, helped with clean-up for the Grover Cleveland Park in Caldwell. “People were very grateful that we wanted to beautify the park.” Leandro Gonzalez, coordinator of international student services and Matt Netter, manager of digital content and communications, put on waders and helped pull cattails out of the pond at Grover Cleveland. “I smell horrible but feel fulfilled,” said Gonzalez.
The day was organized by the University’s Student Life staff including Tim Kessler-Cleary, assistant dean for student engagement and retention, and Christina Bryant, director of campus ministry. Kessler-Cleary reminded the participants that the Dominican pillars are service, community, prayer and study, and that they had lived out service and community in their volunteerism that morning. He encouraged them to continue to reflect on how they can spread those pillars in their environments of school, work and community.
Dr. Jose Rodriguez, interim associate vice president for student life and dean of students, said he was struck by how wonderful it was for faculty, staff and students from different backgrounds to pause, and come together for something so very important as reaching out to help others. “Our differences are our commonalities….what we are saying is not just in words but [also] in deeds.”
Other community service projects included:
The Community FoodBank of NJ – Campus community members volunteered in the warehouse of New Jersey’s largest anti-poverty and anti-hunger organization.
Kingsland Manor, Historic Restoration Trust – Volunteers assisted with weeding and garden clean-up.
On campus – Volunteers partnered with the Facilities Department to organize a campus clean-up and with the Health Services Department to help with administrative work.
Midnight Run – Volunteers organized donated items for the organization which is dedicated to forging relationships between the housed and the homeless. Students and staff make trips to NYC for Midnight Run during the academic year.