Celebrate Service... Celebrate Yates captures community spirit

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express
Approximately 280 volunteers came together to provide community service for non-profit work sites for the 14th annual Celebrate Service ... Celebrate Yates. Heather Tarr, a member of the Keuka Park First Responders and a Keuka College student, gives Emily Tutak (back), Jamie Caldwell (middle) and Megan Arthur an introduction to the department's rig.

Cloudy skies couldn't dampen the high spirits Sunday as approximately 280 volunteers came together to provide community service for non-profit work sites for the 14th annual Celebrate Service ... Celebrate Yates.

Local citizens kept busy painting, cleaning, raking, sweeping, washing, and repairing as needed to help Yates County non-profit organizations and agencies with their spring cleaning during this annual day of volunteer service.

This year was no different, with hands-on help given at some 30 sites throughout Yates County — in Keuka Park, Branchport, Middlesex, Penn Yan, Benton, Himrod, and Dundee.

Among them were camps (New York State Sherriff’s Association Camp Iroquois, Camp Koinonia and Camp Cory), fire departments (Branchport/Keuka Park and Dresden), several churches,  and local homes run by Catholic Charities or Yates ARC.

This year was the first time event organizers had to start a wait list for non-profit work sites due to high requests for service, said Jen Furner, director of student affairs at Keuka and a co-chair of CSCY.

All seven non-profits who were wait-listed will be referred to the Penn Yan Academy Community Service day in May, she said. However, if a wait-listed site needs more immediate assistance, Furner said CSCY organizers will work withKeuka students to set up an earlier time to provide the volunteer service.

The event has truly grown from its infancy 14 years ago when it began as a Field Period project for a Keuka student, Tracy Swem (who graduated in 1998), said College President Joseph G. Burke, who served as master of ceremonies Sunday in a brief welcome ceremony to kick things off.

CSCY is a symbol of the many times the campus comes together, and seeing the campus then join hands with the community is the result of Swem's dream, Burke said. Without the organizing committee and the local sponsors who underwrite the event with cash and services, CSCY could not be sustained from year-to-year, he added, calling them the "true heroes."

Furner praised two other groups of unsung heroes who helped make the day a success - the volunteer site supervisors awaiting CSCY workers at each work site with tools and instructions, and the bus drivers from sponsoring transportation agencies who shuttle volunteers to work sites. A couple drivers even made extra runs this year, which enabled organizers to get more volunteers to more sites, she said.

This year's CSCY was a poignant one for President Burke and his wife, Professor and Chair of Education Diane, who will both retire at the end of the academic year.

"Fourteen years ago, we planted evergreen trees at St. Mark's Terrace in Dundee, and each time we drive past them, I think back to CSCY and when we planted them," Diane Burke said.

Added her husband: "And I hope that's true for everyone - the dream of getting the college and the community together is like the trees we planted - when they drive past a place they worked at for CSCY, they can think of the help they provided for someone else."

A collaborative effort of volunteers from Keuka College and the Yates County Chamber of Commerce, Celebrate Service … Celebrate Yates could not happen without the support of its underwriting sponsors. This year’s sponsors were: Fitzgerald Brothers, Graphic Connections, Knapp & Schlappi, Knights of Columbus, Keuka College Student Senate, K-Ventures, Lyons National Bank, Penn Yan Area Council of Churches, Penn Yan Elks Lodge, Penn Yan Kiwanis Club, Roto Salt, Sodexo Food Services, Soldiers & Sailors Hospital, Stork Insurance, Tony Collins - Class of 1977 Celebrity Golf Classic, Yates ARC, and the Yates County Chamber of Commerce.