LYNDON CENTER -- Most students know what to expect from college. They'll receive a comprehensive education that will equip them for a changing workplace, most will specialize in a field of study to prepare them for entry into a specific career or graduate school, and they'll learn to be critical thinkers and effective problem solvers. At Vermont's Lyndon State College, they are also expected to learn what it means to be part of an active, caring community, in hopes of developing a life-long habit of service to others.
On Sept. 16, 375 first-year students traveled to 26 locations in Vermont to participate in Lyndon's second annual Community Service Day. The activity was coordinated by the college's director of First Year Experience, Donna Keely, with the assistance of many members of the college's staff, who took a day off from their regular duties to work alongside students in the field.
This year three groups of students traveled beyond the Northeast Kingdom to help in disaster relief for victims of Hurricane Irene. In Berlin students helped clear debris from two mobile homes at the Weston Trailer Park that had been inundated with flood water, including one belonging to an 86-year-old grandmother. The student aid was particularly timely -- WCAX TV had reported that these residents had not received any assistance a full three weeks after the storm hit. Others assisted at a church and the ice arena with a variety of cleaning and clearing tasks.
In East Montpelier students helped the Central Vermont Human Society get ready for their "Prepare Your Pet for Disaster" event scheduled for the following day. In Waterbury, 26 students helped prepare two homes for final repairs by removing water- and mud-damaged sheetrock. On the Lyndon campus, 40 more students and four staff members sorted some the 18,000 garments donated by Carhartt in order to make clothing bundles ready for distribution around the state.
Elsewhere in the Northeast Kingdom, 28 students and two staff members helped harvest produce at the St. Johnsbury Community Garden on the banks of the Passumpsic River. Perishable vegetables were tagged to go to a produce giveaway at the North Church the following day. The rest were earmarked for the St. Johnsbury Food Shelf. Eight students spent the day at the NEK Animal Shelter cleaning windows, floors, and the containment space reserved for newly arrived cats. They also did a little maintenance on the exterior sign. And six students assisted NEK Youth Services by raising awareness for the organization's upcoming Shelter Walk.
Students heading north for the day assisted with trail clearing at Kingdom Trails in East Burke, helped build a climbing wall and clear trails at the Northwoods Stewardship Center in East Charleston, and painted the stage at the Vermont Children's Theater.
The Lyndon Grange Hall and First Congregational Church in Lyndon Corner were the site of significant work by 30 students and 2 staff members. They painted the grange porch; did a thorough cleaning at both buildings; installed new energy-efficient light bulbs; removed brush, sand and debris from storm wash-outs; fixed driveways and edged sidewalks; and removed material from under the church in order to prepare the building for foundation repairs. Elsewhere in Lyndon, volunteers cleaned the Fenton Chester Ice Arena, power washed the grandstand at the Caledonia County Fairgrounds, and repaired swing sets at the Lyndon Children's Center.
The cheerfully sunny fall day was reflected in the enthusiasm and high spirits of the student volunteers working throughout the northern part of the state. Not incidentally, students also had a chance to form ties with new classmates and other members of the Lyndon community. Lessons learned by students as part of Community Service Day are designed to broaden the scope of their college education -- all while helping countless Vermonters who are now their neighbors.