October 1, 2001

Groups Give Back To Local Agencies

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About 400 Cornell students rose early Saturday morning to participate in the student-organized, 10th Annual “Into the Streets” public service event.

The activity was sponsored and partly funded by the Cornell Public Service Center. The Student Activities Funding Committee also funded the event.

“The main goal of Into the Streets is to introduce students to more thoughtful community service opportunities in the greater Ithaca area,” said Sarah Jensen ’03, director of the event. “A group of students thought up the idea ten years ago and just made it happen. Now the event [is held] every year by Cornell students, with a few hundred students volunteering.”

This year the nine-student Executive Council worked together on to pull off the event.

Beginning early Saturday morning, the Council held meetings together and then with their volunteers to open the day with motivational speeches from members of both the Cornell and Ithaca-area community.

Laura Mar ’05 was impressed by the words of Prof. Jeffery Haugaard, human development

“Prof. Haugaard was a very inspiring speaker. He referred to the New York City tragedies and spoke about how community service also brings people together and how it does not always take a tragedy to do [bring people together],” she said.

Vivek Kumar ’05 explained that the recent tragedy in New York City and Washington D.C. was one of his main motivations for participating. “There is even more inspiration to help better the community in a time where the community is in need,” he said.

The volunteers also had an opportunity to meet representatives from many of about two-dozen local community agencies that they were there to help.

Many of the students traveled to the downtown Ithaca-area for the first time Saturday. Nina Niu ’05 and ten of her peers painted the American Red Cross homeless shelter in downtown Ithaca.

For Niu, “[Into the Streets] really helped me realize that there is community down in Ithaca, other than the one on campus,” she noted.

Beth Lasoff ’05 joined local Ithaca volunteers in helping with construction of the new downtown Sciencenter. “We saw that the community really needs workers and help which is different from what I see at home. We learned where to go if when we want to help,” she said.

“The best part,” said Johana Marin ’05, “was just having random people walk by and say thanks. It felt good.”

Rachel Ruggirello, publicity chair for Into the Streets, believed that the event helps engage Cornell students into the Ithaca community. “The purpose of this day is really to promote consistent volunteering by letting students see what they can do to help,” she said. “I think the day went really well. Everyone got to their agencies and it was nice to see Cornell students work closely side by with the people of Ithaca. Though it was a lot of labor, it was meaningful and makes a lot of difference for the community.”

Lieutenant Gill Sharp of Collegetown’s Ithaca Fire Department Station 9 found that the help of the volunteers directly impact the community in more ways than they can realize. “They’re helping us out a lot. We need to keep our fire hydrants in good condition if we want to help stop fires. These guys are helping us with the color coding which is important for the firefighters to know when they get to the scene of a fire,” he said.

The largest group representation came from the Latino Living Center with about 24 volunteers helping at the Sciencenter.

Terrell Buckner ’05 said he was pleased with the experience. “It was great to be able to give to the community. It really helped make Ithaca feel more like home,” he said.

Alex Smith ’02 felt grateful for the opportunity to assist Ithaca. “[The fire department] has come down and helped us out a lot. It’s great to be able to do something for them. It will also make Ithaca city a safer place. Usually Saturday is just a time were [students] relax and hang out. Today we had the chance to impact our lives and the lives of around us,” he said.

One of the only “problems” with the event was the overwhelming number of students who wanted to volunteer, many who had to be turned away due to size constraints.

“It’s been very difficult for us find a lot of one day projects for the volunteers. Much of the work ends up getting done at the beginning of September when it’s warmer. We hope that Cornell students understand that we really regret that we had to turn people away. At the same time we’re very pleased that so many students wanted to help out,” said Miranda Pugh, a team leader coordinator.

According to Jensen and the other organizers, the day of service turned out well. “The whole day has really shown how connected Cornell is to the community and that is one of the great things that I love about Ithaca,” Jensen said.

Adey Fettene contributed to this article.

Archived article by Alison Thomas