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“The tradition of service is rooted in Yale’s past,” wrote Yale College alumnus Mark Dollhopf, executive director of the Association of Yale Alumni, “but perhaps it is more relevant today than ever. There are few traditions as important to Yale alumni as service to others.”

Many alumni and current students of the Graduate School joined in the fifth annual Yale Day of Service. They volunteered in schools, parks and nature centers, food pantries, homeless shelters, health facilities, and other community agencies in their communities, which were as close to campus as East Rock and as far flung as Hong Kong and Switzerland. They worked on Habitat for Humanity construction sites and cooked in Ronald McDonald Houses. They recorded books for the blind and sorted books for prisoners, cleaned up beaches and planted city trees. Stephen Scher (BA 1956, PhD 1966) was a regional director for the event. Site coordinators included Martin Evans (PhD 1967), George Joseph (MPhil 2000), Monika Advocate (PhD 1987), Andrew Richter (PhD 1979), Lillian and Michael Labowsky (both PhD 1977), Mark Smith (PhD 1999), Josebe Bilbao-Henry (PhD 1999), Kimberly Fowler (PhD 2005), Faith Herndon (BA 1981, MA 1984), Jennifer Giltnane (PhD 2008), Valerie Hotchkiss (PhD 1990), Rosa Rahimpour (Melendez) (PhD 2001). Volunteers from the Graduate School numbered over 170.

Caption: Valerie Hotchkiss (PhD 1990, Medieval Studies) and her team balanced community service and a little fun when they volunteered at Books2Prisoners.

Valerie Hotchkiss and five other Yale volunteers helped out at Books2Prisoners in Urbana. “Volunteers read letters from prisoners, did their best to fill their ‘orders’ by choosing books from a fairly extensive collection of donated books, and wrote letters back to the prisoners to accompany each parcel of books,” Hotchkiss says. “All the volunteers agreed that this was a great program and we all plan to return on a regular basis to volunteer again.”

The GSAA/Yale Club of Washington, D.C. co-sponsored a project at the Ronald McDonald House, “where a group of dedicated Yalies cooked casseroles for the families who stay in the house while their little ones undergo treatment at nearby hospitals,” says Josebe Bilbao-Henry. The Ronald McDonald House program provides a place for families to stay so they can be near their hospitalized child at little or no cost. “We cooked 18 casseroles – a selection of favorite recipes, from the traditional to the creative. These meals are incredibly nourishing for families who hardly think of food,” she says. On the Yale Day of Service, the Ronald McDonald House of Washington, D.C. was almost at capacity, with 20 families staying an average of six weeks.

“We were using the same kitchen the families use, so we had a chance to interact with the parents and their small children. This was one of the most rewarding aspects of the activity. In the end, we left three nourishing casseroles for families to enjoy that night, and the rest were frozen for the next few days,” she says.

Next year’s Yale Day of Service will be held on May 10, 2014.