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Students beautify Windham during Day of Caring

Published on October 06, 2021

Students beautify Windham during Day of Caring

Eastern Connecticut State University’s Center for Community Engagement held its annual Day of Caring special event on Oct. 2. In collaboration with the University of Connecticut (UConn) and sponsored by United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut, the Day of Caring deployed student volunteers throughout the Windham community to fulfill gardening, cleaning, maintenance work and other beautification projects.

With 68 Eastern students and 17 UConn students, the day began at 8:30 a.m. with a gathering at Eastern’s Clock Tower to hand out event t-shirts and determine assignments.

The Day of Caring was organized by CCE Special Events Coordinator Lexie Mastroianni ’21. “Due to COVID-19 we were all online, but now, getting back into the community and having actual volunteers onsite is great,” said Mastroianni, who was a student leader during her undergraduate days at Eastern.

After picking assignments, the students departed in vans to locations across town, including the Garden Club of Windham, Windham Textile Museum, Willimantic White Water Partnership and more.

The Garden Club of Windham is located on High Street and is a large area filled with bushes. It is one of the first things drivers see when they get off the nearby highway. Students were equipped with gloves, shovels and wheelbarrows to pull, dig and make spaces for native plants.

“Since 1997, the Garden Club of Windham has been one of our staple volunteering efforts on campus,” said Nick Diaz ’22, president of the student leadership organization MALES.  “MALES is about growing as professionals and young adults.”

“Volunteering gives us an opportunity to bond together and see Willimantic,” said Yenifer Serrano ’22, president of the student leadership organization FEMALES. “Our club is based on leadership, community service and being professional while preparing for the real world. This club gives members the chance to work with children and the community.”

The Windham Textile and History Museum, also known as the Mill Museum of Connecticut, is a non-profit that provides the community with a historical museum, library and archive. Students painted and fulfilled maintenance tasks for the nonprofit organization. Given Willimantic’s frog history, students spray painted amphibian footprints along the premises. They also painted new arrows to signal drivers where to enter and exit and added a new coat of paint to the ramp leading to the building.

“We’ve partnered with Eastern for several years now,” said Kira Holmes, the executive director of the museum. “It’s great to have the students because we always need an extra hand.”

The Willimantic White Water Partnership is a non-profit organization that preserves the trails and area around the Willimantic River. Students planted various trees such as crabapple, sunflowers, perennials and other native plants around a map of the Willimantic Trail Hub.

“It’s been quite a collaboration of many people helping,” said White Water Park Community Organizer Jean de Smet. “It’s always exciting to me to see everyone pulling together to volunteer.”

United Way will be assembling literacy kits for students in the Windham area in hopes of encouraging a love for reading. United Way is a non-profit organization with 15 locations throughout the state and 1,800 locations across the world. Their mission includes youth success, family financial security, access to health and basic needs.

“What we do is we look at the whole person, and we address barriers that prevent people from having equitable outcomes for success,” said United Way Marketing and Communications Manager Kate Blackburn. “We’re really passionate about ensuring every child has the opportunity to succeed in school. Another part of our mission is ensuring every family has the opportunity to achieve financial stability.”

The CCE is widely know throughout the Windham area. With the many volunteering programs and special events, the CCE has fostered trust from community members. The CCE provides resources to build a culture of civic responsibility and engaged learning at Eastern. The CCE creates sustainable and effective relationships with community partners that benefit the local community, provide students with valuable life and employability skills and support faculty in developing high-impact curricular practices. Opportunities are available in tutoring and mentoring in area schools, juvenile and adult rehabilitation, programs focused on cultural awareness, hunger and homelessness, animal rehabilitation, and health and wellness.

Written by Bobbi Brown