April 28, 2003

National Volunteer Week Kicks Off

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Approximately 100 people participated in the kick-off of the fifth annual “National Volunteer Week: Neighbors for Nature on Ithaca Commons” on Friday afternoon. The event was sponsored by On Site Volunteer Services.

The purpose of National Volunteer Week is to “create an awareness of nature and unite volunteerism with environmentalism,” said Erin Braey ’03, a member of On Site.

Ithaca Mayor Alan Cohen ’81 began the event with remarks regarding the importance of both volunteerism and protecting the environment. Ithaca has “so many causes [to fulfill] with limited resources,” Cohen said. “Volunteering to improve the environment is an oxymoron. We take for granted our natural environment.”

Cohen proceeded to read a proclamation honoring National Volunteer Week in Ithaca from April 27 to May 3.

Helen Struck ’03, executive director for On Site, presented four students with awards for being outstanding volunteers: Barry O’Connell ’05, representing the Zeta Psi fraternity, Jie Dong Leou ’03, representing the Tau Beta Pi fraternity, Ashley Haile ’06 and Liza Behles ’06.

“[Zeta Psi] had a goal of increasing our civic participation. This really shows that we reached that goal and we feel good about it,” O’Connell said.

Several environmental organizations set up booths to “increase our exposure and get the word out,” according to Emily Eisman, outreach coordinator of Finger Lakes Land Trust, one of the booths on the Commons. These organizations all rely on volunteers.

Other organizations also touted the benefits of the event.

“[National Volunteer Week] gives people an idea of who we are and what we’re doing. It gives them an opportunity to participate,” said Erin Jeannotte ’04, a member of the Cayuga Nature Center.

Members of On Site, along with passersby, planted flowers in the Commons, which were provided by the Community Beautification Program. The program also provided “master gardeners” to explain the finer points of planting flowers.

Local businesses also participated in the kick-off. Eastern Mountain Sports gave away eight water bottles and $40 gift certificates, according to Kelly Lawson ’03, a sales associate at the company.

There are fifteen environment-related projects scheduled over the next week, according to Struck. On Site Volunteer Services is a student-run, nonprofit agency that “provides a link between volunteers and agencies that need services,” Braey said.

“We really lucked out with the weather. We were able to generate a whole new level of civic activity,” Struck said.

Archived article by Shelia Raju