Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass students make an impact

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(William Keve/Daily Collegian)

(William Keve/Daily Collegian)

University of Massachusetts students departed by the busload on Saturday to lend a hand to communities throughout the Pioneer Valley for the third annual Mass Impact Day.

Turnout estimates for the event were at an all-time high, with as many as 500 students choosing to spend a Saturday afternoon making a difference in western Massachusetts.

Jody Goodman, the assistant director of UMass Leadership and Community Service, orchestrated the event, from registering groups to ensuring transportation and finding communities that needed some work done.

“This will be a great day for everyone,” Goodman said. “I think everyone will go out and have fun and do great service. This is a great way for students to understand the place we live and appreciate the communities around us.”

The campus remained quiet when the event began at about 7 a.m., except for the bustling activity under the tents of the Haigis Mall, where hundreds of students were quickly flooding in to meet with countless groups and shake endless hands.

Many people ran sign-in tents as people registered last-minute volunteers. UMass provided free lunch for workers and some local eateries, including Food City, located on Avenue A in Turner’s Falls, provided discount donuts for a sweet surprise.

Jessica Auger, the secretary of the UMass club fencing team, saw the event as a good group experience for the team.

“We’ve been looking forward to this for a while,” she said. “It’s our first team event of the year, even though it’s not a fencing thing, and we’re looking forward to helping out and reconnecting as a unit.”

Later, the team went to Sheffield Elementary School in Turner’s Falls where, according to Auger, they would be “gardening, mulching and building a chicken coop.”

Sheffield principal Sharon Moberg thanked the fencing club, Theta Chi and UMass students for participating.

“I’m really proud that we have so many UMass students helping here today on beautification day,” she said. “We have lots of kids here mulching and raking and taking down old shrubbery. And there are little kids here watching what these young adults here are doing, for free, and that makes a big difference to them.”

Moberg ran a marketing effort to get Sheffield students and parents to come out as well, but participation amongst locals was limited due to some light rain and a nearby little league baseball game. The kids who were there for the game or those who pitched in learned the lesson that many hands make light work, and that, Moberg said, “really warms my heart. I’m so grateful, everybody in Turner’s Falls is really grateful for that.”

Groups weeded the main garden out in front of the school, transplanted the healthiest plants to the surrounding edges of the garden and mulched the entire plot. A patch of dirt overrun by weeds soon became an elegant looking spot complete with a garden arrangement and a soft dirt path designed by the school’s beautification commissioner. Moberg said emphatically that the aesthetics of the walkway could change the environment at Sheffield.

There were also many different events organized. According to a UMass press release, “Participants will work alongside members of nonprofit organizations, town officials and community members to complete service projects, which include cleanup, gardening, painting and companionship for the elderly.”

For many, this event was a chance for the community to get together and get involved.

“It’s a great chance for students to get off campus and see what impact so many students can make,” said Catherine Gensler, the site-manager for a Newman’s Students Association trip to the Wellspring Cooperative in Springfield. “It might seem like just one day, but if you multiply the 300 plus people here by the six hours we’re going to work, that could be like 1800 hours of community service.”

William Keve can be reached at [email protected]

Correction: A previous version of this story included editing errors. They have since been fixed.

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