Now in its second year, the Celebrate Service Celebrate Allegany event, held this October in Allegany County as part of the national Make a Difference Day, attracted more than 500 students and volunteers from Alfred State, Alfred University, and Houghton College.
Groups spread out across Allegany County to lend a hand raking leaves, winterizing buildings, and performing other needed community service projects. “This day is about providing meaningful assistance to our Allegany County neighbors, helping to meet community needs and build relationships,” said Jonathan Hilsher, director of civic engagement at Alfred State.
On the Alfred State campus, groups of students and staff — warm coats and hats in hand — gathered in the new Student Leadership Center before heading out to their assigned tasks. Some were sent to clean up the local Alfred Community Garden and get it ready for winter, while others got to work installing storm windows at the Alfred Box of Books Library, pulling weeds at the local baseball field, or visiting with the elderly.
“They were very willing. They got right in there and worked hard. We were extremely appreciative,” says Sandra Robinson, director of the local Almond library, where students cleaned out storage closets, sorted through items, washed canning jars, and set up tables for an event. Next year, she hopes they will return to help paint. “If it weren’t for the students, the library staff would have had to do it all, and it still wouldn’t be done.”
This year’s total number of volunteers exceeded last year’s by about 100 people due to the concerted effort and collaboration given by all three institutions as well as aid from local businesses and organizations. “I truly appreciated the chance to collaborate with Houghton College and Alfred University to make this day a reality,” Hilsher said. “What a privilege to unite efforts in a common mission to improve the lives of others, all while enabling students and residents to build connections and relationships.”
Make a Difference Day, the largest national day of community service, has been impacting lives for more than 20 years. Millions of people around the world unite every year to volunteer their time and energy for those around them.
“Volunteering can really be a great thing. It’s not something that’s forced on you. It’s something you do because you want to,” said Lucas Bayus, Alfred State junior and two-time volunteer with Celebrate Service Celebrate Allegany. “I personally love to volunteer because there is no better feeling than when the person you help comes up and expresses how truly thankful they are for your help. Knowing that just a small amount of your time can help someone else out tremendously really makes my day.”