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SIENAserves Community Service Day

On Saturday, Apr. 24, the Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy collaborated with the Environmental Club, Student Senate, and Habitat for Humanity to host the Spring 2021 SIENAserves Community Service Day.

The service day was also one of the events during Siena College’s celebration of Earth Week, spanning from Apr.19 to Apr. 25. During Earth Week, the Environmental Club, the Franciscan Center, Stage 3, Habitat for Humanity, and the office of Health and Wellness Promotion organized a number of events, such as a succulent painting night and Trashion Fashion show. The service day was one of the final events of the week!

Every year, the Franciscan Center hosts two SIENAserves Community Service Days, one in the Fall and one in the Spring. The Spring service day is closely related to Earth Day. I spoke with Judy Dougherty, Director of the Franciscan Center, to learn more about both the service day itself and the connections between the mission of the Center and the celebration of Earth Day. Dougherty explained, “The connection between the mission of the Franciscan Center for Service and Advocacy and projects relating to Earth Day is significant.  Our mission calls us to be respectful and treat with dignity and respect ALL of creation. We do that when we care for the earth and its creatures. In addition, St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the environment, can be viewed as the original Earth Day advocate, as his devotion to God was expressed through his love and respect for all God’s creations.” As such, the service day started with a prayer and reflection on St. Francis’ love for creation, led by Fr. Tito Serrano, OFM.

Then, as the day progressed, students took part in a number of activities. These projects focused on: building two new beds in Rosetti Gardens, repairing and painting the bridge over Thompson Trail, wetland Cleanup, knotweed removal, building two new benches for the Rosetti Garden area, flower pot planting to beautify Siena’s campus and a local senior citizen center as well as building bluebird houses.

While the Franciscan Center has partnered with the Environmental Club to host service days for Earth Day in the past, this was the first year that they worked with Habitat for Humanity Club and the Student Senate as well. Dougherty is also the advisor of Habitat for Humanity, and since the pandemic prevented the club from traveling over Spring break to complete a large-scale building project, the service day provided an opportunity for club members to participate in building projects right on campus. While this was the first time the Center collaborated with these clubs, Dougherty spoke about how she hopes they will continue to do so in the future.

Since the SIENAserves day was a collaboration with a number of organizations on campus, Dougherty also emphasized her appreciation for the work of the planning committee who spent time on deciding which projects to tackle and ensuring the day ran smoothly. She also added, “I do have to give a HUGE shout out to Mark Frost and his facilities team, including Tom Buscher, Keith Volsky and Brian Gay. We would not have been able to have such a successful day without their assistance! And, they worked with us all day.”

The event saw participation from over 60 students and staff, all of whom contributed to the projects listed above. Below are some reflections provided by a couple of the students who helped to plan the event.

Jessica Dupont, the Events Coordinator of Environmental Club, highlighted how Earth Week is an essential part of Siena’s annual tradition: “St. Francis is the patron saint of ecology, and we don’t really reflect that enough in the ways that students approach the environment. By having a week dedicated to celebrating the earth and its connection to our Franciscan heritage, we take time to reflect on what makes our community’s Franciscan tradition special. I’ve been working on and planning Earth Week for 2 years now and I’m so happy the reception was so great! People smiled so much when interacting with us and you could tell that students and staff really believed in what we were doing and were excited to get involved. Many expressed excitement that we were holding a whole week to celebrate the earth.”

Nick Scavone spoke about Student Senate’s participation in the service day: “The Student Senate was a part of two projects, the first was planting and transporting six large potted plants to various spots around the townhouses. Our second project was planting and transporting fifty small potted plants to two assisted living facilities, the Daughters of Sarah and Eddy Village Green… It was so nice to personally deliver flowers to those who have had so little company during this pandemic.”