Hundreds of Cornell alumni and students participated at 40 sites across the country earlier this month to connect and make a difference as part of the Public Service Center’s Cornell Cares Day.
Each year early in January, students and alumni work together on service projects in their hometown while Cornell is on break. The Cornell Public Service Center (PSC) works with Cornell regional alumni clubs to implement the worldwide service event.
The Cornell Club of Austin, Texas, held its Cornell Cares Day event at the Central Texas Food Bank, where 20 Cornell alumni and one undergraduate volunteered to sort donated food to help neighboring agencies. They sorted more than 9,325 pounds of food, which equates to 7,770 meals for hungry Central Texans.
Volunteers sorted and packaged more than 10,000 diapers at the Cornell Club of Mid-America in Kansas for delivery to low-income parents. Diapers are not covered by WIC or food stamps, and day cares require disposable diapers.
“I love what we get out of helping the most, really, but it’s such a great concept to think that Cornellians all over the world are working in their own communities, spreading the message far and wide that Cornell Cares,” said Stacy Strassberg Wright ’90.
In Minnesota, volunteers worked at Open Arms, an organization that cooks and delivers free, nutritious meals to people living with cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis and ALS in the Twin Cities. Volunteers were invited to decorate food transport bags with festive, nonreligious, cheerful messages.
“The most rewarding aspect was the range of club volunteers that participated,” said Kate McAndrews ’02. “It was terrific to have two Class of 2016 graduates as well as a Class of 1973 alumna. Additionally, a 1990 alumnus brought his wife and three daughters. … It sends a positive message that Cornell alumni across the country are committed to bettering their communities. There is power in numbers and focusing on a single day of service magnifies the impact.”
Additional Cornell Cares Day highlights included:
• The Cornell Club of Northeast Ohio held two events, to sort, package and distribute food, clothing, Christmas gifts and household products to the needy in East Cleveland through the Ozanam Center. Eight Cornellians contributed time and talent. On Jan. 7, 13 volunteers sorted and packaged food at the Cleveland Food Bank for distribution to food centers throughout Northeastern Ohio.
“The most rewarding aspect was to hear the feedback from management at both [locations],” said John Burke, M.S. ’74. “[They] expressed heartfelt thanks on behalf of those who will benefit from this effort.”
• The Cornell Club of Wisconsin returned to Kathy’s House, which was at peak capacity to provide a warm, home cooked meal to guests. The highlight of the day, according to the volunteers, was “serving the fabulous lunch created by Cornell alumnus Dan Sidner ’90 and his staff at Maxie’s Restaurant.”
• In Beijing, postdoctoral student Yue Li ’16 coordinated volunteers at the Olympic Forest Park to promote a low-carbon lifestyle. Discussions were held with members of the public about climate change and volunteers encouraged people to calculate their carbon footprint and take actions to help reduce it.
• The Cornell Club of Central Virginia volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Richmond, helping to clean and assemble activity packs for children in the hospital.
• In Connecticut, the Cornell Club of Fairfield County hosted two events. The first was through Wags4Hope, founded by Annie Blumenfeld ’20, to volunteer at two local animal shelters: the Danbury Animal Welfare Society to paint and make animal toys, and at Tails of Courage to help with the washing and care of animals and general maintenance. Volunteers sorted and packaged books at a second event at the Darien Book Aid, a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization that builds a foundation of peace, understanding and friendship through the free distribution of books.
• The Cornell Club of Washington, D.C., held three events renamed in honor of the late Cornell President Elizabeth Garrett. Partnering with Catholic Charities, they cleaned a shelter, and at the Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation, volunteers staffed two adoption events at Petsmart in Fairfax, Virginia. Lastly, they joined with the Capital Area Food Bank that provides fresh produce to needy residents at its mobile marketplace to pack and sort donated produce, engage with customers, and assist with set up and tear down of the marketplace.
Renee Farkas is associate director of the Cornell Public Service Center.