Fall Day of Service a Success and a Return to In-Person Volunteer Sites

Jillian Currier, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Darlene Ellis from Berkshire Food Project talks to student volunteers about the establishment’s history in North Adams. (Photo courtesy of Chris Hantman)

On October 15, students, faculty, and staff gathered on campus to volunteer their time and hard work for MCLA’s Fall Day of Service. Continuing their efforts from the spring semester, there were many happy and willing faces filling Venable Gym eager to go out into the Berkshires and help in any way possible.
Chris Hantman, the Coordinator of Civic Engagement and Handler of Maple the campus comfort dog, as well as President Birge and North Adams Mayor Jennifer Macksey were all present for the event and spoke to the crowd of volunteers before they each were sent to their volunteer site.
“For each of you to commit your time this morning to spend time together and see different non-profit organizations here on campus is really quite meaningful,” President Birge said. He continued, stating that students’ decision to dedicate their time and hard work to other people is “entwined with the ideals of a liberal arts education.”
Mayor Jennifer Macksey also extended her thanks and stressed the importance of volunteering “not only for the MCLA community, but to this community of North Adams.”
The Fall Day of Service sends students to various locations across North Adams to volunteer their time doing whatever the site needs assistance with. This fall, there were ten different locations students would be volunteering for, including trail maintenance at Greylock Glen, fall cleanup at the YMCA, indoor dining assistance at Berkshire Food Project, and many more.
“The spirit of the day is the same,” Hantman said in an interview with the Beacon. “Some of the service sites might change, students obviously change, but as we said during the welcome, it’s a tradition that remains unchanged.”
During COVID, the Spring and Fall Day of Service events on campus were held virtually, which saw lower numbers in attendance and screen fatigue. There were still students and faculty eager to help in any way they could, but all agree it was not the same as getting out there and doing hands-on work.
With the world changing and slowly going back to normal, the number of volunteers keeps getting larger. People are more comfortable going places and being with the community, which reflected this fall with 85 people present at check-in.
“When we can roll up our sleeves and be together in community, it’s really helpful and infectious in a good way,” Hantman continued. “The community spirit is palpable.”
At Berkshire Food Project, one of the service sites this fall- Darlene Ellis, the kitchen manager, shared how during COVID they weren’t able to have more than three people inside at a time, which placed the entire workload on only a few people. But now, with things getting back to normal, their workload is increasing again, and they are producing more meals per service period.
The students volunteering at Berkshire Food Project would be assisting Ellis with cleaning and setting up the indoor dining area to accommodate being open five days a week. “We have to make a lot of people safe, and we have to make a lot of people feel safe,” Ellis said as to why the work students were doing is so important to the community.
The importance of the day and the work students were volunteering for was not lost on anyone, Hantman explained. “It only takes a few hours to make a difference,” he said, before saying that the most important takeaway from these events is “the empowerment to make a difference, and the empowerment to know that they can make a difference by just showing up.”