MARIST VOLUNTEERS MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN POUGHKEEPSIE

It’s Friday afternoon in 1973. The halls of the basement in one of the old buildings in the Smith Street projects is filled with the bustling of children waiting anxiously for Marist students to come and begin their tutoring. The Circle article  from October 11, 1973 describes how some students volunteer from Marist around the Poughkeepsie area. The volunteers read stories and create art projects with the children of Smith Street.

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One of the mottos of Marist College Campus Ministry is “Good people doing good things in the face of God.” This motto can be noticed in Marist students from 1973 and still can be noticed in students today. Campus Ministry offers Community Service activities for Marist students where this motto is actually put into action. It is a way for students to see how fortunate they really are and get out of the Marist College “bubble,” where sometimes the beauty of Marist blinds us.  This is one of the many reasons why I personally love the Community Service program. It allows you to step back and appreciate all of the family and friends that love you, and especially all of the wonderful opportunities you have at Marist. This program allows you to reflect on yourself as an individual and realize that giving back to others can give you much more than you could ever imagine.

“The Marist Brothers have a long tradition of service, especially in schools, so it made sense for Marist Campus Ministry to encourage this type of service in the name of God. Service is an important part of how students grow spiritually in college,” explained Kathleen McNutt, who has been running the Community Service program for three years now.

The Community Service program has grown immensely. Currently, there are 350 volunteers and about 20 on the waiting list. About two-thirds of the volunteers are freshman, one-fourth are sophomores, and the rest are a mix of juniors and seniors. Many education majors volunteer at the schools, where some have even gone on to do their student teaching in the schools where they once have volunteered. Assortments of majors from Communications, to Fashion, to Science majors participate in weekly service.

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Students volunteer around the Poughkeepsie area for many different reasons. These students select the sites that interest them the most and where they feel they can give back in the best way they can. Two students, Chelsea Bennington and Brittany Jelinski give their own reasoning for participating in this program.

“I like volunteering at Marist because there are so many different options. I also like that transportation is often provided. Volunteering at Marist really shows students different areas of the Hudson Valley that they might have never had the chance to see,” stated Jelinski, a junior Radio/TV/Film major.

“I worked at a soup kitchen in Poughkeepsie once a week last semester and I had so much fun doing it. I learned a lot about the people who worked there, and it is so interesting to meet people who live in the same city as me and to see how different they are from me, but we all have one thing in common: We were helping people who need it the most. The main reason that I volunteered at the soup kitchen is because I have an older brother who was homeless most of his teen years, and I always saw how much help he needed and I wasn’t able to help him. I have so much empathy and compassion for starving, poor, and homeless people that I just feel like it is my job to help them out once in a while,” explained Bennington, a junior Psych-special Education major.

A plate from The Lunch Box Soup Kitchen.

A plate from The Lunch Box Soup Kitchen.

I have been involved in this program every semester since my freshman year and I have not been able to stay at just one particular site. I volunteered at multiple schools and the Lunch Box soup kitchen as well. You meet many other Marist students through volunteering, which makes it that much more fun. I absolutely love the two hours I spend at these sites. It lets you forget about the stress of college and focus on helping someone else. Whether it’s serving someone lunch or helping that one little girl with her math homework, you’re making that persons’ day just by giving them that extra help they need.

The program requires each volunteer to two hours a week each week for a semester at a site of their choosing. Students can volunteer at pre-school daycare centers, afterschool programs, nursing homes, and soup kitchens. Some of these sites are the Astor Head Start program, the Lunch Box soup kitchen, and various programs in local elementary schools. Also students can volunteer as van drivers. If a student has a car, they can also participate in other sites, such as Marist Meals, Dress for Success, Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie, and Grace Smith House and School Outreach Program.

“A site is a good fit if it is close to campus, fits student schedules, and is well-organized, but most importantly it is a good fit if it allows students to use their skills to make a difference for someone,” said McNutt.

Having the chance to go to such an amazing school with so many extraordinary opportunities, sometimes can make you forget about all the things that you have that other people do not. It is such a good feeling knowing that you are making a difference in someones’ life in the Poughkeepsie area. No matter how small, any act of kindness will make a difference.

Make sure to like the Marist Weekly Service Facebook page!

For more information about the Community Service program click here!

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