Students, alumni dive into community service events

Tuesday, November 18, 2014
students raking leaves

Christensen RA Kacie McFadden '17 and two dorm residents work to cleanup the grounds of the USS Albacore submarine museum.

Hundreds of UNH students headed out to more than 25 different locations throughout the Seacoast and greater Manchester areas on Nov. 11 as part of UNH Serves — a day of community service to honor veterans, and also perform some good deeds for the larger community.

For some students, it was a chance to discover new attractions near the Durham campus — a group of students did yard work at the USS Albacore submarine and museum in Portsmouth, and got a free tour of the inside of the sub. Another group headed to the Woodman Museum in Dover, where they got a chance to see historical artifacts and oddities as they cleaned out the museum's attic and prepped its Civil War room for renovation and restructuring. Others made blankets for sick children at local hospitals, did some housekeeping and grounds work at Harmony Homes, cleaned up the beach at Pierce Island in Portsmouth and canvassed the Durham campus to collect food items for various charitable organizations.

UNH Serves began last year as a way to encourage students to use the Veterans Day break from classes as a day to give back by performing community service in the local area.

The event is gaining in popularity, even though it's only in its second year: About 500 students participated in 29 projects this year, compared to last year's 250 students and 20 projects.

Mary Faucher, assistant director of housing and residential life, says that beyond the obvious benefits to the organizations, there are several positives for UNH students.

"They get to work alongside a group of their friends and feel good about accomplishing a task. It promotes a great sense of community and teamwork and helps build stronger bonds between students," she says. "They also benefit from getting out into the community and meeting people, finding out more about their organization and the need for community service."

The six Christensen Hall residents at the USS Albacore were raking and bagging leaves, and also did a little bit of cleanup inside the retired Naval submarine.

"It's such a great thing to do, and it's just coincidence that we ended up at the USS Albacore on Veterans Day," Christensen resident Catherine Buckley ’18 says.

This year, the Day of Service was tied into the Month of Believing, occurring over the next several weeks, during which the university is boasting a bit more loudly and proudly about all the great reasons why people believe in UNH.

"Our Month of Believing initiative is celebrating all the great things happening both on campus and in the broader UNH community, and UNH Serves is one of those things, with more than 500 students turning out to take part," says Jackie Peterson, assistant director of the UNH Fund. "We're thrilled to be able to show what community service can do locally and beyond.

At the Woodman Museum in Dover, a group of students from Lord Hall and Handler Hall worked amid historic treasures, oddities, and at least one giant stuffed polar bear.

David Dupont ’77, head trustee at Woodman,  said the team spent much of the day clearing out the Civil War collection room and doing some hardcore demo work as the museum gets ready for some renovations.

"They've done enough to fill a 30-yard Dumpster," Dupont says, adding that each volunteer was leaving with a museum pass for free admission to come back and tour the four buildings that make up the museum.

Mike Day, who works at the museum, complimented UNH on providing free labor for needy groups.

"I hadn't heard of this before this year, but we're really thankful they're here. They are cleaning out generations of stuff that's been accumulating in the attics," he says. "We've gotten about five major projects done today with these guys; things that have been on our punch list for years."

Lynn Carpenter Smith '02, assistant director of alumni engagement, drove a group from Hetzel Hall to the UNH Recreation Area at Mendum's Pond on Tuesday. They painted bridges, repaired picnic tables, raked leaves and performed other tasks.

"It was so heartwarming to hear how sincere and genuine the students were in their desire to give back and volunteer," she says.

A new feature to this year's service schedule was the addition of alumni volunteers across the country organizing their own community service projects in their local areas.

In Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles, alums did public-space cleanup and yard work. In Chicago and on the Seacoast, they donated items for local charities. In New York City, alumni worked at the Crossroads Community Center. In D.C., UNHers held a Veterans Day observance at the World War II Memorial, and in the New Hampshire Lakes Region, volunteers knitted hats and gloves for local schoolchildren.

Christopher Felker '91G reported that a small group of UNHers from the Northern California Alumni Network teamed up with about 30 other volunteers to help remove non-native plant species from the butterfly-friendly Strawberry Hill area in San Francisco.

"In among the greenery we saw orb spiders, red-tail hawks and spectacular 360-degree views of the city," says Felker. The group also a little bit about each other, including the fun fact that volunteer Andrew Middleton '11 is active in a variety of Bay Area naturalist organizations, including one called Nerds for Nature.

"And, while picking wild radishes and ivy (but preserving the wild blackberries), we were hoping UNH English professor David Watters was reelected to a second term as N.H. senator," Felker says. Their hopes were answered: Watters did in fact win a second-term seat.

Want to see more? Check out UNH Residential Life's compilation of the Day of Service: