October 31, 2010

Cornellians Head ‘Into the Streets’ for Two Days of Community Service

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More than 1,500 Cornell students prepared meals for the homeless, raked leaves and distributed environmentally-friendly light bulbs Friday and Saturday as part of the 19th annual Into the Streets days of service. This was the first year that the event was expanded to two days, and Into the Streets saw a record 15-percent increase in turnout from the previous year, according to its president, Mara Perman ’11.Students volunteered for 65 non-profit agencies across the greater Ithaca area, such as the Cornell Cooperative Extension, the Greater Ithaca Activities Center and the Salvation Army.The importance of Into the Streets is that “it helps strengthen the relationship between Cornell and the surrounding community; it’s a recognition that students volunteer,” Perman said.The event was organized by a student executive board in conjunction with the Cornell Public Service Center. Perman described the preparations for Into the Streets as “recruiting students on campus to volunteer … [and] then pair them up with non-profit organizations in the Ithaca area.”More than a hundred student teams signed up for the event. “Participants ranged from varsity sports teams to Greek houses to multicultural organizations — a wide array of student organizations,” Perman said.Into the Streets’ biggest undertaking was with the Cornell Cooperative Extension, the University’s primary environmental outreach arm. Around 250 students canvassed door-to-door as part of the “Lighten Up Tompkins” project, distributing compact fluorescent light bulbs and packets of information to over 3,500 Ithaca households. “Delivering a package to someone’s house with light bulbs and energy information is one of the most important things to increase awareness,” said Michael Koplinka-Loehr, association community educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension.

“It sounds like a funny joke — how many people does it take to screw in a light bulb? — but to have this package delivered directly helps energy efficiency efforts,” Koplinka-Loehr said. One student volunteer for “Lighten Up Tompkins” described going door-to-door in various Ithaca neighborhoods.  “We went to over 55 houses and we had pretty positive responses from everyone who opened their doors. People were very encouraging and they received the information very well,” said C.J. Gray ’13, who participated with his pledge class in Alpha Kappa Psi. For some organizations, Into the Streets is their main connection to Cornell students.At the Women’s Opportunity Center, members of the gymnastics team raked leaves and conducted maintenance work on the center’s building.“We’ve mostly been cleaning up outside with yard work … It’s a good way for us to get off campus and see what else is out there and help the community,” said Maddie Pearsall ’11, member of the gymnastics team. At the Salvation Army, students helped prepare breakfast for the homeless, while in Danby, students worked at a “Halloween Army.” The event was officially proclaimed as the “Into the Streets Day in the City of Ithaca” by Mayor Carolyn Peterson, a sign of the service days’ effects. In past years, Into the Streets hosted a kickoff event at Barton Hall with administrators giving speeches. “Trustees weekend was a possible conflict for greater administrator involvement,” Perman said. Various participants expressed hope that Into the Streets helps connect Cornell with the Ithaca community.  “People think very highly of Cornell for this project and for Into the Streets in general,” said Koplinka-Loehr from the Cornell Cooperative Extension. Perman contemplated the service days’ effect on Cornell students. “I think that it’s easy for students to stay on campus because it’s more convenient — it’s important for an event like Into the Streets to remind students that there are many things they can become involved with,” she said. “It introduces students to the surrounding Ithaca community.” Perman also reminded students “how easy it is to become involved off-campus. Anyone interested in the vast array of service opportunities available in the greater-Ithaca community should come into the Cornell Public Service Center in 200 Barnes Hall.”

Original Author: Max Schindler