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Students beautify Windham during annual Day of Caring

Published on October 26, 2022

Students beautify Windham during annual Day of Caring

Volunteers help to beautify CLiCK Commercial Kitchen.

Volunteers remove trash at the Jillson House garden.

Day of Caring Volunteers

Eastern Connecticut State University partnered with the University of Connecticut and United Way of Connecticut for a community service event called Day of Caring on Oct. 22. Groups of Eastern and UConn students, including members of athletic teams and other student organizations, traveled to various locations around Windham and participated in gardening, cleaning, and other beautification activities. In total, 101 students from Eastern volunteered throughout the day.

The event’s opening reception took place at Eastern’s clock tower at 8:30 a.m. After the service volunteers gathered, met with their groups and determined their service locations, a short address was given by Kate Blackburn, senior marketing communications manager for United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut.

Blackburn outlined the impact of United Way, which includes offering children access to early learning programs and helping families progress toward financially secure futures. She highlighted the relationship between Eastern’s student volunteers and the impact they would have on Windham, telling the students, “Most importantly, do great work.”

Several locations were sites for community gardening, including Jillson House on Main St. in Willimantic. The garden outside Jillson House was littered with trash, and students came together to pick it up, rake leaves, sweep walkways and restore its beauty. Eastern student Olivia Gardner was the leader for this location. “It’s always been very important to me to be close with my community and to better my community,” she said of her motivation to clean up the community surrounding Eastern.

Student-volunteers line up outside of the J. Eugene Smith Library to kick off the event.
Day of Caring volunteers line up for a group photo at the kick-off of the event in front of the Eastern library. 

Meanwhile, at Windham Middle School, Eastern student Nate Forrest led another community gardening project. This project included laying down new soil and cleaning up the garden in the school’s courtyard. He reflected on his and other students’ previous involvement with the middle school through Eastern and how it inspired him to continue, stating, “We like to stay involved with the middle school, so cleaning up is the least we can do for our community.”

At CLiCK Commercial Kitchen, another gardening session was led by Eastern student Amelya Williams. This project will have an impact on the greater community in the Windham area. Williams explained that the gardens at CLiCK grow fresh fruits and vegetables, which are used by several small food businesses in the area. By preparing these gardens for winter, the students ensured that these businesses would have fresh produce the following season.

Lana O’Connor, Associate Director of Eastern’s Center of Community Engagement and a member of United Way’s Regional Advisory Board, was very pleased with the event’s turnout. “Day of Caring is a fun and special way to have students participate in fall cleanup around the town of Willimantic,” she said. “It truly couldn’t be possible without the help of everyone that day.”

Written by Noel Teter