Cara Rosner sent in the following write-up about the United Way’s Days of Caring volunteer drive.
For most of them it was their first time in one of New Haven’s community gardens, let alone getting their hands dirty in one.
“I like it!” said one of the girls as she pulled weeds out of a flower bed, sounding almost surprised at the fun she was having.
“Me too!” echoed her friend, raking leaves nearby.
In all, there were seven girls – all juniors and seniors in high school – who volunteered to spend a recent Friday evening cleaning up the community garden at the corner of Davenport Avenue and Ward Street as part of United Way Days of Caring.
The girls are all part of LEAP (Leadership, Education and Athletics in Partnership), an academic and social enrichment program for youth in New Haven.
“It is great to have the opportunity to work with United Way. They are a great resource that links community members who want to make a difference with local organizations,” said Adelaida Melendez, a youth development coordinator at LEAP. “My youth participants were able to meet people they probably would not have had the chance to if it were not for their participation with Days of Caring. It was such a success that the youth expressed interest in returning to volunteer at the Davenport Community Garden.”
While their several hours of work made a big impact in the garden, which is supported by the New Haven Land Trust, by participating in Days of Caring they were part of a much larger community effort.
During Days of Caring, United Way’s signature volunteer event, about 200 volunteers gave their time to help out at more than a dozen project sites throughout New Haven and nearby towns from Oct. 5 through Monday (Oct. 21).
One of the event’s highlights was the new greenhouse begun in Newhallville, which will benefit not only the neighborhood’s community gardeners but also the students at neighboring Lincoln-Bassett School. (Read more about that project here.)
In another Day of Caring project, roughly 40 University of New Haven employees spent a sunny fall day helping out at Camp Murray in East Haven, which is run by Girl Scouts of Connecticut. Volunteers traded a day at the office to head outdoors, helping close up camp for the winter. They dismantled tents – a job that took them just a couple hours but typically takes the camp’s small staff much longer - and raked leaves.
“We are so grateful for all the work these volunteers have done at Camp Murray. They have given us literally weeks of work hours, enabling us to maintain and improve our camps in ways we would not be able to do,” said Mary Barneby, CEO of Girl Scouts of Connecticut. “The improvements will help our girls enjoy the camp so they can build the courage, independence and leadership skills that come from outdoor experiences.”
Elsewhere during the two-week Days of Caring, volunteers helped distribute food and clothing at Loaves & Fishes in New Haven, helped twelfth graders at Co-Op Arts & Humanities High School with their college essays, participated in a Chatham Square “community cleanup,” served breakfast to roughly 100 people at the community soup kitchen at St. Luke’s in New Haven and painted the kitchen at Branford’s Community Dining Room, among other projects.
While Days of Caring has drawn to a close, there always is a need for volunteers in our area. To find ways you can help in New Haven and surrounding towns, visit uwgnh.org/volunteer.