Grinnell students and alumni share time and talents for Global Day of Service

June 13, 2019 — Grinnell College’s commitment to service and social responsibility was exemplified by students and alumni around the world during the 5th Annual Global Day of Service on Saturday.

That was certainly true in New York City where alumni and students powered through the planting of more than 100 plants at Dutch Kills Green, a park in Queens.

“It was a sunny day, so it was nice to be outside and get our hands deep in the dirt,” said Hanna Feldman ’14 who coordinated the group project with Rebecca Heller ’11. “We ended up doing quite a lot of work. I think all of us were surprised that we got it all done.”

Grinnell-in-New York alumni and students take a group photo with gardeners from Partnerships for Parks Saturday at Dutch Kills Green park.
Grinnell-in-New York alumni and students take a group photo with gardeners from Partnerships for Parks Saturday at Dutch Kills Green park.

Grinnell’s Global Day of Service started in 2015 to honor Founders’ Day. On June 10, 1846, Trustee James J. Hill laid a single silver dollar — the seed that started Grinnell’s endowment — on the table at the first meeting of the College’s Board of Trustees. Grinnellians around the world have worked to better their communities through giving and service ever since Hill’s founding contribution.

The New York project was one of 10 cities where group projects took place Saturday. Other groups assisted community support organizations or were dedicated to helping clean up and maintain parks and beaches.

In Grinnell, volunteers supported the Prairie Burn 100 fundraiser for Imagine Grinnell by handing out refreshments to cyclist participants at the 11-mile mark on the bike route and in Central Park where the route loops concluded.

Dan Covino ’10 volunteered in both places. “As a Grinnell alumnus, it’s always fun to celebrate Founders’ Day,” he said.

With a nice June Iowa day as the backdrop, Covino said it was enjoyable seeing the cyclists come through in good spirits.

“One biker told me there was no nervous energy when the ride started like there typically is with a race,” Covino said. “People were just super relaxed and that’s permeated out here to the College’s tent as well.”

Riders could choose from several beverages and snacks at the tent while taking a breather from the ride or relaxing afterward. Grinnell resident Vrinda Varia noticed how the good energy and excitement of the Prairie Burn 100 fundraiser meshed well with Global Day of Service.

Dan Covino ’10, far left, and Vrinda Varia were among the volunteers helping with the Grinnell group project during the Prairie Burn 100 bicycle ride.
Dan Covino ’10, far left, and Vrinda Varia were among the volunteers helping with the Grinnell group project during the Prairie Burn 100 bicycle ride.

“Global Day of Service is a great way to build community,” she said. “This is the thing to do in Grinnell today, so why not engage in a way that celebrates the people that are doing good work.”

Varia, the College’s director of intercultural affairs, said she appreciates staff and volunteers putting a lot of effort into making the day a success.

“It’s a lot to coordinate, wrangle volunteers, and to do it in a way that is genuine and just,” she said. “I think the day as a whole connects wonderfully with the College’s mission.”

Sam Forman ’11 worked with Partnerships for Parks to set up the Grinnell-in-New York project. Dutch Kills Green was chosen for its central location and the park’s interesting history. The former John F. Kennedy commuter parking lot was transformed into a 1.5-acre green space that features wetlands, native plantings, and artist-designed benches. At the start of Saturday’s event, gardeners gave Grinnell alumni and students the lowdown on what types of sturdy plants to put in that won’t get trampled by foot traffic.

“It’s a pristine park. The transition went really well because I couldn’t tell it was parking lot before,” Feldman said.

A law student at Fordham, Feldman enjoyed getting to know other participants whose class years ranged from 1984 to 2022. The youngest of the group, Chaz Del Mar ’22, is spending the summer in New York City interning for a Grinnell alum that he corresponded with through Grinnell Connect, a networking and mentoring platform for alumni and students.

“I like that Global Day of Service brought people of all ages together to give back to the community and hang out with other Grinnellians,” Feldman said. “We all contributed different experiences, but have a shared experience too. We know what it’s like to go to school in a small Iowa town and now live in a big city.”

For alumni living outside group project areas, another option to participate was through independent service work. Grinnellians who organized their own service activity or contributed their regular service work have their contributions count toward the total hours served and impact of Global Day of Service.

Outside of the U.S., Grinnellians got together for a group service project in London and Berlin. In London, Andy Brooks ’97 coordinated a project volunteering at Hackney Community Tree Nursery & Edible Forest Garden, which grows trees from seed and cuttings to plant in the neighborhood’s parks and social housing areas.

In addition, there’s still one more group project to go. The Twin Cities Global Day of Service project will take place on June 19 at Second Harvest Heartland. The event organized by Kristin Stout ’89 will include packing and sorting food for distribution to soup kitchens, homeless shelters, senior community centers, and other meal programs.

“Global Day of Service is a way to unite Grinnellians all across the world doing service, which is a very Grinnellian thing because we are all about social justice and giving back to the community,” Feldman said.

— by Jeremy Shapiro

For your information:

To record your volunteer work the first two weeks of June as part of Global Day of Service, please fill out the Independent Volunteer Registration Form.

To read more alumni news, check out our news archive.