April 9, 2001

Community Service Fills Up Weekend

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With a spirit of fun and a zeal for helping others, many Cornell students painted, raked, cleaned — and ate — to help the community over the past few days. Nearly 400 Cornellians volunteered in the Ithaca community on Saturday afternoon with Collegetown Clean-up and Ivy Corps Day, and around 125 students attended the Ithaca Hunger Banquet last Wednesday.

Around 300 members of the Greek system flooded the streets of Collegetown on Saturday afternoon, picking up garbage as part of the biannual Collegetown Clean-up, co-sponsored by the Panhellenic Council and the Interfraternity Council.

“There are so many of us [in the Greek system] that we have the manpower to make a positive impact on the community,” said Jamie Porco ’03 vice-president of University and community relations for the Panehellenic Council.

Many Greeks emphasized that community service, and not just partying, is an integral part of the Greek system.

“Looking at the values and traditions of the Greek system, one of them is doing things for the community,” explained Brian Strahine ’01 president of the Interfraternity Council.

“Greeks get a bad reputation for only partying,” Katie Devine ’03, a member of the Alpha Phi sorority, noted. “It’s good to show the community another side of the Greek system.”

At the same time on Saturday, Ivy Corps Day sent another portion of Cornellians to volunteer in small teams at various agencies in downtown Ithaca, including Ithacare, the Salvation Army, and the Battered Women’s Shelter. Around 60 to 70 Cornell students participated in Ivy Corps Day, during which all eight Ivy League schools volunteer in their respective communities.

“Because we live and work at Cornell, we’re stuck in this bubble that is Cornell,” said Farah Meghji ’04, a member of the executive board for Into the Streets (a day of volunteering in Ithaca during the fall) and Ivy Corps Day.

“This may seem insignificant, but it really makes a difference,” Meghji added.

“It’s an eye-opening experience to see what’s going on in the community,” agreed Rachel Rogirello ’04, team leader and publicity chair for the executive board.

Sarah Jensen, Director of Into the Streets, emphasized that Ivy Corps Day is important to Cornell not only as part of the Ithaca community but also the Ivy League community.

“Ivy Corps Day promotes unity among the Ivy League Schools,” Jensen said.

Last Wednesday’s Ithaca Hunger Banquet at the Sigma Pi Fraternity also sought to increase awareness of Cornellians about a different issue — hunger and poverty. Although all tickets cost the same price, a ticket-holder had the possibility of receiving the upper class dinner (steak dinner), the middle class dinner (pasta), or the lower class dinner (beans and rice). The distribution of these meals reflected the distribution of wealth in America.

“With [the Ithaca Hunger Banquet], we hope to increase awareness of the imbalance in the distribution of wealth in this country and around the world,” said Nicole Freeman ’02, co-organizer of the event.

Each person received an envelope containing an explanation of their economic status — designating them perhaps as a single mom working for minimum wage or a successful Wall Street investment banker.

“Watching the person next to me eating a steak, as I sat there eating my bean and rice really made me think about the class system in this country,” Betsy Cooper ’04 said.

During the meal, Paul Hessler, head of the Food Bank of the Southern Tier of New York, spoke about the need to help alleviate hunger by volunteering or donating.

Impressed by Hessler’s speech, Ann Marino ’03 commented, “Students are aware that there is hunger, but they’re not aware that they’re living amongst it.”

Freeman, Megan Ronco ’02, and Sonja Slade ’02 organized the banquet as a project for a Hotel Administration class called Housing and Feeding the Homeless.

An anonymous donor supplies funds for the banquet to occur annually. In its second year, the Banquet doubled to tripled its attendance and the amount of money raised.

“The $1,000 we raised all goes to the Food Bank,” explained Slade. “The Food Bank turns the $1,000 into $7,000 through corporate donations.”

Archived article by Elisa Jillson