On Saturday, the Lehman Community Engagement (LCE) organization hosted the first annual Fall Great Day of Service, an expansion of the traditional all-school spring community service event. Throughout the day, students participated in nine different service projects in the surrounding Berkshire area.
Volunteers helped out at a variety of local organizations, including several Goodwill locations, the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation, the Appalachian Trail Foot Bridge, three local farms and for the first time, the Berkshire Humane Society. Activities ranged from scrubbing cheese at the Cricket Creek Farm to painting a footbridge to picking the potatoes and vegetables at Peace Valley Farm.
The LCE began planning the event last summer and worked with College Council to acquire funding for lunches and with the College to use vans for transportation to the service projects. The Center for Learning in Action also hosted a barbeque for all participants upon their return to campus.
Out of the 130 students who signed up, 100 people attended the event on Saturday, which was a good turnout, according to Co-President of the LCE Sonia Cheung ’16.
The groups of volunteers ranged from whole entries to sophomores participating in SophomOrientation, a brief orientation program designed for sophomore students. As part of SophomOrientation, the service trip to the Appalachian Trail Foot Bridge was open only to interested sophomores.
In the past, the LCE has only hosted the event in the spring, but according to Cheung, the LCE decided to add a fall service day for several reasons. First, students who participated in the Great Day of Service last spring remarked that “they would have wanted a taste of service earlier in the year,” Cheung said.
In addition, this fall’s event was tailored to first-year students. According to Cheung, the event was scheduled relatively early in the school year, “so that freshmen aren’t committed to too many things, giving them a chance to step out of the purple bubble and explore the Berkshire region. This allows them to decide if they want to commit to more social service or farm work throughout the year.”
First-years agreed that the event served not only as an outlet for them to familiarize themselves with the LCE but also as a way to get involved in the local community.
“I thought the Great Day of Service was an excellent way to be introduced to the Lehman Council,” Dan Brandes ’18 said. “It was a gateway to learning about all of the community’s service initiatives and really incentivized doing more in the future.”
Furthermore, most students who participated in the event believed that they made a difference in the local community.
“I really made a positive impact on the farm,” Megan Greiner ’18 said. “With our help, the Peace Valley Farm completed a week’s worth of potato picking in three hours.”
In anticipation of the Spring Great Day of Service in April, the LCE plans to continue making small changes to the day to get as many students as possible “to step foot outside of the purple bubble,” and according to Cheung, “engage with the surrounding community.”