Spirits High for 15th CSCY Day of Service

Staff reports
Spirits were high as Celebrate Service Celebrate Yates commenced..

Last Sunday, Ashley Ortiz worked with a team of fellow Keuka College students to clean inside the sanctuary of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Penn Yan, and plant a few flowers and greenery in the beds outside.

The freshman occupational therapy major was one of  about 175 volunteers - including youth, families, seniors or Keuka students - who came together Sunday for Celebrate Service ... Celebrate Yates (CSCY), to perform community service tasks at non-profit sites around Yates County.

This year marked the 15th anniversary of the event, which is a collaboration between the College and the Yates County Chamber of Commerce. Volunteers team up on a variety of tasks, including painting, cleaning, and minor repair work for the non-profits. It was clear Sunday that the chilly temperatures could not dampen spirits.

"It's just nice to be able to help the people that are around the College," Ortiz said, adding that in her hometown of Olean, volunteer service enjoys strong support as well. "I'm sure they appreciate us coming out, even if we are only doing a few 'little things.' Every little bit helps in some way, especially if you keep doing this every year - it adds up."

A few doors down Main Street, senior Marie LaBrie served with fellow students from the College's Psychology Club at a Catholic Charities residential home, helping to scrub walls and clean the interior of the house. At the end of the day, friendly residents who had come alongside the volunteers invited the group for cookies in the cozy kitchen at the end of the hall. The senior psychology major proudly stated that she had volunteered for CSCY during each of her four years at Keuka.

"I think it's a very rewarding experience, especially (serving) somewhere that's related to my major. I got a Field Period here," LaBrie said, referencing Keuka's signature annual internship program, "and my friend, who's also a psych major, got a job here, so it helps everyone network and get to know the community better."

Indeed, CSCY itself was first introduced by a Keuka student, Tracey Swem Morgan '98, as a Field Period project. In a welcome to volunteers during a brief opening ceremony outside Dahlstrom Student Center, Dean of Students James Blackburn shared Morgan's original vision: to create a service project that would connect the campus to the community. Over its tenure, the project has increased in scope and size such that last year there was a wait-list of non-profit agencies requesting volunteer service.

Over at St. Michael's cemetery on Route 54A, senior Jessica Ingutti of Rochester participated in her third CSCY day of service. With her two roommates, Ignutti was assigned to a small volunteer team that cleaned up old Christmas decorations and planted crisp, new American flags at hundreds of graves of military veterans.

Meanwhile, her 90-year-old grandfather, Jimmy Ingutti, a Naval veteran of World War II, was in Washington D.C. at that very time, touring monuments and memorials with six other WWII vets chosen for Rochester's Honor Flight program, she said. Honor Flights enable military servicemen, particularly those from WWI, to visit the nation's capital and its historic tributes to their sacrifice at no cost to them or their families, a trip the veterans might not otherwise experience.  Ingutti's grandfather flew planes for the Navy during WWII, and came out of the Normandy invasion alive.

"I didn't know we'd be coming here and doing this for all the veterans," Ingutti said. "I think it's great that the whole community gets involved."

"It's awesome, just in general, to support the troops, both now and from before," added Terry Reape of Keuka Park, who worked alongside Ingutti and several others at the cemetery. Reape is married to the College's Director of Housing and Residence Life Patrick Reape.

This year, some 19  non-profit sites – including  camps, churches, cemeteries and more— welcomed the volunteers, who sported souvenir black T-shirts with a silver ink design featuring the CSCY logo and theme “Hands Across Yates County."

Out at Camp Koininea on Italy Valley Road between Naples and Middlesex, hundreds of youth and family campers are expected between Memorial Day weekend and the end of August, said Mark Mayton, volunteer facilities director. The camp has welcomed CSCY volunteers for nearly 10 years, and their help provides "a real good start on our spring clean-up," Mayton said, noting Koininea has only one full-time employee.

In keeping with Earth Day, which was also celebrated Sunday, camp maintenance workers Tom Howard and Larry Liput, who served as on-site work supervisors, dubbed themselves "conservation engineers." Liput's pickup hauled a flatbed trailer on which more than a dozen volunteers from Eaves Family Dental Group tossed limbs and brush to be disposed at the far side of a wooded area.

"Whatever has fallen over the winter, we need to get it off the lawn so we can mow it," Liput said, gesturing to the nearly 40 acres of open space that campers enjoy during the summer. Camp Koininea boasts nearly 400 acres total, he said.

According to Jessi Eaves, this was the first year that staff and family from the dental office - including spouses, significant others and children- participated as volunteers. Bundled in hats, gloves and green dental group hoodies, adults helped children maneuver limbs larger than they were and the group laughed and joked as an '80s-era rock song rumbled from the cab of Liput's pickup.

"We're always trying to support the community in any way we can," Eaves said.

College and community leaders team up to plan the event, with the College coordinating volunteers and transportation, and the Chamber of Commerce seeking business and service sponsors. Some 17 sponsors supported this year's event including: Abtex,  Ameriprise Financial, AVI Fresh, Fitzgerald Brothers, Graphic Connections, Eaves Family Dental Group, Esperanza Mansion, Finger Lakes Health, Ferro Electronic Materials, Knapp & Schlappi Lumber, Knights of Columbus, Keuka College Student Senate, Keuka College Alumni and Family Relations and Campus Safety, K-Ventures, Lyons National Bank, Penn Yan Area Council of Churches, Penn Yan Elks Lodge- B.P.O.E. 1722, Roto Salt, Stork Insurance, Tony Collins – Class of 1977 Celebrity Golf Classic, Yates ARC, and the Yates County Chamber of Commerce.

Working out at the fitness center had new meaning during Celebrate Service...Celebrate Yates.