Students Dispatch Across Windham for ‘Day of Caring’

Eastern and UConn students pose for a group photo at the event’s kickoff at Windham High School.

Written by Raven Dillon

More than 200 students from Eastern Connecticut State University and the University of Connecticut volunteered across Windham on Sept. 28 for the third annual Day of Caring. The event was a collaboration with United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut.

Students from all background and academic interests volunteered hundreds of hours in 13 locations across Willimantic and the surrounding area. Volunteer sites included the Windham Area Interfaith Ministry (WAIM), CT Railroad Museum, Habitat for Humanity, Willimantic Housing Authority, Horizons and more.

At the Abundant Life Church, overseen by Pastor Tim Tracy, students clad in gloves and smiles disinfected nursery toys. “We love this event,” said Pastor Tracy. “Every year, we get different students, and they all work so hard. Usually we only get three or four students at this site, but this year we have eight, so the numbers are going up every year. It’s amazing.”

Students disinfect nursery toys at Abundant Life Church.

Some of the volunteers heard of the event through professors or residence halls. Others were student leaders involved in club life, such as Eastern’s Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS), which had several volunteers at the event. Many more were repeat volunteers from previous Day of Caring events.

Others, like Dilan Mendoza, a psychology major at Eastern, attended for the first time. “I’d definitely do it again next year,” said Mendoza, brushing dirt off his hands. “It’s a great way to give back to the local community, and to get to know other students.”

Mendoza was a part of a small group of students who were planting flowers and weeding dead plants in Jillson Square. Supervised by the Windham Gardening Club, students pruned bushes, raked leaves and planted flowers.

An Eastern student picks up garbage along Main Street.

David Annecchiarico, a music major from Eastern, led a group of students down Main Street, armed with garbage bags and garden tools. They raked and tended to small gardens on both sides of the street and swept sidewalks while collecting discarded trash and litter. This was Annecchiarico’s second year volunteering for Day of Caring; he hopes to return next year.

Aside from outdoor beautification, volunteers worked on projects indoors. Some UConn students sorted through donated school supplies, while others created literacy kits. The literacy kits consisted of a book and reading activity designed to make reading fun for local schoolchildren. These kits will be distributed in the Windham Public Schools.

At the end of the day, students were given lunch and an opportunity to socialize with community leaders and student organizations. Afterwards, they reflected on the importance of volunteering and the work they had accomplished that morning.

Day of Caring is a year-long global program designed by United Way to promote volunteerism. Eastern and UConn students will return next year to continue their dedicated work in the Windham community.