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Chapman students paint, weed, plant, clean all over the town

October 26, 2010

Frankly, the thing that surprised Chapman University junior Alessandra Maman about Sunday’s Annual Day of Service is that it wasn’t too terribly hard.

“I was trying to imagine what I was going to be doing. I was a little bit worried,” Maman, a television broadcast major, admitted as she organized and stocked the bread shelves at Mary’s Kitchen in Orange. “The fact that it’s this easy to help is a little bit surprising.”

But many hands make light work, students discovered during Chapman University’s Second Annual Day of Service, which attracted nearly 180 participants. And it’s a welcome boost to non-profit organizations in the city, said Carolyn V. Cavecche, mayor of Orange.

“It’s a great thing. It just brings Chapman University students and residents closer. You just look at the organizations they’re going out to help today and they’re organizations that are near and dear to our hearts,” Cavecche said.

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The event challenges the university’s students, faculty and staff to sign on for one big day of community service benefiting a variety of non-profit groups in Orange and surrounding communities. In addition to Mary’s Kitchen, teams were dispatched to tackle deep cleaning at Mary’s Shelter, planting at El Modena High School Native Garden and Nature Center, mural painting at Cambridge Elementary School, visitor assistance at Pretend City in Irvine and the Heritage Museum in Santa Ana. And one team wrangled weedy overgrowth at the YMCA of Orange, which is working to establish a children’s garden and restore a long-abandoned community garden. (See the video posted at the top of this post for a glimpse of what they accomplished. Yes, they did get those weeds stuffed into that dumpster!)

Other teams stayed on campus and put their creative skills to work, making blankets and cute scarves for the animals at the OC Animal Care Center and bookmarks and bracelets for the reading programs at Orange Public Library.

It’s not a whole day of labor, as teams wrapped up at mid-day, but headway is made at each location, says Chris Hutchison, Associate Director Student & Campus Life, which sponsored the work day as part of Family and Homecoming Weekend. More importantly, many students get their first taste of community service at the event and go back for more.

 “It’s meant to be the starting point that engages students beyond this day,” Hutchison says.

Liz Martinez, community development director for the YMCA, hopes so. Martinez smiled as she watched student crews hack, cut and haul away bushy overgrowth. Healthy living is a new nationwide focus for the YMCA and the garden that will eventually grow at the Orange site is part of that plan, Martinez says. The weeds were daunting, but the students plunged in.

“I’m sure the parents of these kids are thinking, ‘I can’t get them to do this in our backyard.’ But they’ll do it for the Y.”

Club Doc, a film club from Dodge College, filmed the day’s events, so watch for announcements about the screening of their project.

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