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A hands-on approach to community service

Wilson Day
Mike Caputo '06 adds the finishing touches to a "peace" mural at the Peace Makers Community Garden during Wilson Days 2002.

In a downstairs room of the Interfaith Chapel, it's perfectly quiet except for the clinking of knitting needles. There, a group of students works in focused efficiency, weaving yarn in colors like bubble gum pink and wisteria purple to warm the hands and hearts of Rochester residents in need.

The group, which meets once a week at the Interfaith Chapel, made a holiday donation in December of handmade mittens, scarves, and caps to the Sojourner House, a transitional home for women and children who are victims of domestic violence.

Rebecca Baier '05 from Cazenovia, N.Y., who learned to knit from friends on campus, thought that the project, which was sponsored by the University's Community Service Network (CSN), was a great idea when she first learned of it.

"I'm really glad to have had the opportunity to participate in such a neat program," says Baier. "It's exciting to think someone in Rochester had mittens I made to keep them warm this winter."

This program is an example of hundreds coordinated through CSN, a student-driven organization designed to foster a lifelong commitment to social responsibility and multicultural understanding. From the annual Wilson Days event to the 19th Ward Bridge Dinners to Alternative Spring Break, CSN offers short- and long-term programs throughout the year that connect students to both the local and global community.

"My advice to students is to get involved, and the earlier the better," says Marie Lewis, CSN director. "By volunteering, a student gains a real sense of connection to the Rochester community that extends beyond campus grounds, and they have a chance to meet and interact with so many different kinds of people, which inevitably enhances the student's own educational experience. Volunteering can even open up new areas of study and new career options."

Community service has long been a tradition at Rochester, where more than 70 percent of undergraduates are involved in some type of volunteer program during their college career--Wilson Days being a prime example. In its 15th year, Wilson Days puts freshmen and others from the University at work in the community. Last year more than 1,000 volunteers painted, collected debris, planted flowers, and scooped ice cream at some 70 sites in the city and suburbs of Rochester.

Other opportunities offered at CSN include Alternative Spring Break, a program that allows students to select their own work site or link up with other students at sites around the world. The Urban Fellows Program, supported by a partnership between the University, Leadership Rochester, and the 19th Ward Community Association, allows selected students the opportunity to work closely with community organizations and leaders to tackle some of the city's persistent challenges.

For a complete list of programs and information on how to get involved, visit or call CSN at (585) 275-5957.

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