Leaves rustle as paper
bags laden with donated foods pile into a school bus opened rear
door. Logs plopping while landing in waterlogged mud piles while the soft
plucking noise of plants being pulled blends into the airy silence. These
are the sounds of RVCCs volunteers making a difference.
On Friday, October 24, 15 RVCC students, faculty and staff visited the
Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Northern New Jersey to volunteer
for National Make a Difference Day. Athletics and Recreation Equipment
Coordinator Greg Jackson, Student Activities Head Mary Sullivan, Student
Activities Coordinator Rebecca Zelenty and 12 RVCC volunteers spent their
later mornings and afternoons with the Somerset County Parks Commission
to further the refuges conservation efforts.
USA Todays Weekend Magazine and its nearly 600 carrier newspaper
sponsor National Make a Difference Day [http://www.usaweekend.com/ diffday/]
the fourth Saturday of each October.
A nationally recognized refuge for wildlife appreciation and conservation
and bird watching, the Great Swamp stretches from Basking Ridge in Somerset
County to Chatham in Essex County. The U.S. Department of the Interior,
Somerset County Parks Commission and the Morris County Park Commission
maintain and guard the 7,500 acres.
As the volunteers entered the forest, the Parks Commission pointed at
cut and accumulated logs. Dirtiness and physical labor aside, pairs of
volunteers moved the heavy logs to an area for paint application and finishing.
After two hours of chat mixed with labor and lunch, the Parks Commission
led a dozen volunteers hiking deep into the habitats furthest reaches
on the Orange Trail. Carefully learning about blighted plant species and
their culprits, volunteers pulled unwanted vegetation to prevent continued
plant infestation. The volunteerisms sense of greater good raised
the preserves future and value for the nation.
The next morning, six RVCC student volunteers, with Mary Sullivan of Student
Activities, drove to Our Lady of Lourdes in Readington for the annual
Food Pantry Drive. There volunteers were busily weighing and sorting incoming
donations. Student Government President Sean Lerch, friend Laura Senkowsky
and Pi Theta Kappa (PTK) member Eric Lauritven also arrived, ready to
As Sullivan guided the college van along Readingtons residential
roads, students spotted and collected donations from driveways. Pink tags
on paper bags and a relaxed pace eased the task, whose simplicity underscored
how easily any citizen can make a difference. Filled and weighty bags
encouraged the volunteers retrievals as homeowners saw their donations
being collected. Between sightings, students spoke of their volunteerism
interests, which lacked organization or opportunities until last years
Volunteer Teams creation.
As a PTK cooperative activity, member and PTK Fellowship head Christine
Serra noted, Anything we do as a PTK member, especially volunteering
for service, makes recognition better for the club and the college and
is respecting oneself as humanity. She added, Im also
encouraging needed fellowship amongst student organizations.
Student volunteers George Baker and Richard Pullman found this opportunity
through Student Activities publicity and Sullivans creation of a
Volunteer Team core group. Latino Club President Elena Nolasco and Student
Government Secretary Jeidy Irazarry agreed and enthusiastically hoped
for more continued service.
Other volunteers included Local Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, the Anderson
House, Our Lady of Lourdes Youth Group and residents. The Readington Township
Board of Education donated a township school bus to complement local residents
vehicles to run routes covering every township street. Without volunteerism
and resident generosity, this direct assistance program would never meet
local families in need.
Suzanna Anderson, program founder and director, noted that this
day shows how everyone can help. The organized delegation and shortness
of the days charity were designed to foster participation.
This year is the Volunteer Committee of Readington Townships fourth
and RVCCs first year of participation. Last years donations
topped 2,000 pounds, which was entirely sorted by local children volunteers.
Starfish, a local food bank, and the Flemington Food Pantry receive all
Student Activities Volunteer Team began last year with research,
organization and outreach at Orientation Day Picnics, All College Days,
and Clubs Fairs. Interests became action in monthly projects with open
participation. Student Activities Coordinator and volunteer Sandra Serrano
noted, There are certainly more who would want to do [volunteerism].
RVCCs Volunteer Teams next activity is Wednesday, November
19th starting at 4:00 with Languages Professor Aaron Merino to aid a NYC
homeless shelter. Contact Sullivan or Serrano in Student Activities for
information or to participate.
Serra and George Baker retrieve a donation bag during National Make
A Difference Day on Oct. 25. RVCC students gave their time to the Great
Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and Our Lady of Lourdes Food Pantry Drive
to Help Others: Left to right: Greg Jackson, Rebecca Zelenty, Mary Sullivan,
Shana McClenton, Bilal Patterson, Jeidy Irizzarry, Isiah Davenport,
Christine Serra, George Baker, Doug Broennle, Laura Senkowsky (former
RVCC student), Sean Lerch, Mike Opdyke. Front Row: Sandra Serrano, Andrea
del los Santos.