An opportunity to give: Yale’s annual day of service

By Frank Brown*, Assistant Director, Publications

The University’s second annual Day of Service is offering YDS alumni worldwide the opportunity to lend a helping hand in local communities in unison with other Yale graduates.

Choron Ryan“I hope lots of Divinity alums will participate,” said Director of Alumni Relations Carmen Germino ’07 M.Div. “So many YDS alumni are already involved in service projects in their communities, so this is a great opportunity to get to know other Yale alumni and share the transformative power of service with the wider alumni network.”

The 2010 Day of Service is set to take place May 15 at pre-selected locations throughout the United States and in 21 foreign countries. Alumni may browse locations online in their area to register at a group site or even register for an independent project if there is no established site in their area.

Last year, Choron Ryan ’08 M.A.R. took part in the cleanup of the Front Street Park in the Fair Haven section of New Haven, in conjunction with the Urban Resources Initiative.  “We donned our work gloves and planted trees, maneuvered wheelbarrows, sodded over shell-covered rocks and reminisced on our varied experiences at Yale,” recalled Ryan, who this year is planning to participate in the Yale Day of Service in Anchorage, AK. “At the same time, Yalies around the world engaged in similar service projects, creating very local applications of our collective efforts.”

Webpages for sites listed online also include a feature where prospective volunteers can see who else is registered to take part and how many guests they are bringing. Children are generally welcome.

“Several alums brought small children, and they had lots of fun as well—especially in the rock-clearing!” reported Eloise Killeffer '04 M.Div., who in 2009 pitched in at the Stamford (CT) Museum and Nature Center.  “I cannot praise this program enough.  It is a terrific way for clubs to give back to their communities and I believe it strengthens clubs, too.  I'm looking forward to another day of service in Stamford come May.”

FrakerOn a much larger scale, the Day of Service builds on an often-informal tradition at Yale Divinity School.  William Fraker ’73 M.Div., ’75 S.T.M. recalled that his first Yale encounter with the notion of community service came very shortly after his arrival on campus—in the person of legendary University chaplain William Sloan Coffin Jr. ’56 B.D.

“After only a few days at YDS, Bill Coffin strode down the hall across from Dean Adams’s office.  In a slightly echoing voice that interlaced humor with a slight prick of conscience, the Chaplain of Battell cajoled those of us who were privileged enough to be sitting in the hallway to register our cars, to join in an activity of community service over the next couple of days before classes,” said Fraker, who took part in last year’s event by planting shrubbery.  “From the beginning of my connection to YDS, the alumni I know cultivated a habit of community involvement.”

“The Yale Day of Service last year offered me the opportunity to meet, in a few short hours of planting shrubbery for a sheltered workshop, other Yalies who, through their careers and in their spare time, practiced the joy of giving back to the community,” Fraker observed.  “For me, it was a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with a wonderful Yale tradition.”

While almost all events will take place on May 15, there will be some exceptions.  On May 16, for example, Yale Day of Service participants are invited to march in the 25th Annual AIDS Walk in New York City.

Yale Volunteers

*Gustav Spohn, Director of Communications and Publications, also contributed to this story