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Students lend a hand at MLK Day of Service

By Sirianna Santacrose ’15

For over twenty years, Hamilton Association for Volunteering, Outreach and Charity, or HAVOC, has had an influential role in serving the local community and creating connections between Hamilton students and residents of Clinton, New Hartford and Utica. Last Saturday was no exception, marking the seventeenth annual Martin Luther King Jr. Service Day organized by HAVOC. Over the course of about four hours, more than 140 students volunteered their time at sixteen local organizations, including Kirkland Town Library, Spring Farm Cares, the Lutheran Home and Masonic Care Community.

The co-directors of this service event were Emily Goldberg ’16 and James Hunter ’17, who both have extensive community service experience. Goldberg ran community service projects in high school, which she said got her “interested in collaborative work with community partners and event planning.” Similarly, Hunter ran a program writing letters and sending care packages to veterans in high school, and he later held roles as a volunteer, e-board member, project manager and site coordinator for HAVOC.

While there are opportunities to volunteer often with HAVOC sites, many students on campus are unable to commit to volunteering at a site every week due to other commitments. This is why service days like Make a Difference Day in the fall and MLK Service Day in the spring offer the perfect way for students to spend one day out of their busy schedules helping others and getting involved in service efforts off the Hill.

“What HAVOC tries to do is to provide opportunities to get involved in different ways, from multiple times a week to one-day events,” Hunter explained. “Hopefully we provide something for everyone.” In regard to last Saturday’s service day in particular, Goldberg said that the day is named “in honor of what [Martin Luther King] represented. We try to do it as close to MLK Day as possible.”

Many individuals, teams and organizations signed up to take part in MLK Service Day, including the men’s soccer team, the Kappa Sigma Alpha sorority and the women’s rugby team. KSA members volunteered at the Utica Public Library, where they shelved books and reorganized DVDs. “The public library is a beautiful historic building that provides a safe learning and working environment for children and adults in Utica,” said Sara Kleinman ’15. However, due to a decrease in funding over the years, many local libraries, including this one, have become short-staffed.

Courtney Anderson ’15 said, “While we were doing seemingly simple tasks like re-shelving books, the librarians really were grateful for our extra help.” She added, “I participated in the day of service because I always find that I get to see Utica from a different lens when I volunteer on these service days.”

Nathalia Mahabir ’17, who spent the afternoon with patients at the Rome Nursing Home, enjoyed making new friends and hearing their stories. “The time I spent there made me appreciate everything that I had but also made me realize that sharing my happiness, my stories and my jokes with other people can make a huge difference.” She added, “I think [MLK Service Day] was and will continue to be an opportunity for us to step outside of the bubble here at Hamilton…and put others before ourselves.”

Members of the men’s soccer team volunteered at Upstate Cerebral Palsy on Saturday. They played volleyball and basketball with the kids there while learning more about their interests. Harris Pollack ’17 enjoyed meeting everyone, noting, “I think we were all impressed with how talented these children were… there were definitely moments when everyone was completely present, and those moments were the most enriching.”

If you did not make it to last weekend’s service event, there are many opportunities coming up later in the semester to look out for. As part of Feb Fest, HAVOC will run a card-making event for local cancer patients. Other service events will include Exploring Utica, in which small groups will volunteer and dine at local establishments, as well as Autism Awareness Month in April.

For more information on upcoming HAVOC events and how to get involved, email havoc@hamilton.edu.

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