Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Day of Service in Westchester

Jennifer Colville '86 and Dixie welcome Yale alums

Around the country and in parts of the world, back in May, Yale alumni combed through their communities and neighborhoods and marched through fields and streams.

They filtered through parks and swarmed shorelines and vast open spaces. They appeared at homeless shelters and soup kitchens.

They became service volunteers, many donning Yale blue, Yale caps and Yale sweatshirts, many more sharing stories of Old Campus and Lindsley Chit. Some were current Yale students and Yale parents. Some even were newly admitted Yalies, months away from a New Haven arrival, but already leaping into the service-minded spirit that which is Yale.

In groups by the dozen or for a few going solo, they cleaned up, swept up, built, rebuilt, climbed ladders, painted walls, pounded nails through plywood, served food, poured cement, cut trees, trimmed plants or did whatever a local foreman barked needed to get done.
Karen Strauss '83 with Yogi

It was the annual Yale Day of Service, the weekend that marks a coming-out party for alumni. It was more than an opportunity to flee outdoors after a long winter. It was the weekend that pushes Yale alumni to go beyond writing a charity check and urges them to get their hands and knees dirty on real projects, where success often means a newly built house, a spruced up flower garden, or a freshly scrubbed park. A noticeable difference in hundreds of communities.

In 2013, the Yale Day of Service (May 11), under the auspices of the AYA, included over 280 alumni groups and sites and over 3,500 alumni, students, staff, faculty and family members with activity in 40 states and 20 countries. 

Alumni in Westchester, as they've done in previous years, didn't take a back seat to other Yale groups for that Saturday of service.  Westchester groups, too, gathered, organized and arranged outings to clear up debris and tidy up parkways and gardens.
Susan Kaminsky '86 organized the Yale group
One group, under the guidance of Susan Kaminsky '86, convened for the day at the SPCA of Westchester, the animal shelter in Briarcliff Manor.  The shelter, established in 1883 and operating independently since the 1920's, is awarded no funding from federal, state and local governments and relies substantially on donations, fund-raising and volunteers like the Yale group. (The shelter is not affiliated with the ASPCA of New York.)
Jenn Kassoff '95 does weeding chores

The Yale group spent the Saturday cleaning the grounds, providing office support, tending to and caring for animals, pulling weeds, gathering trash, and raking leaves--a thorough spring cleaning. Whatever needed to be done. However long it took. As long as it made a difference.
Making a difference at SPCA:
(L-R) Sara McLeod '86, Richard 
Bernard (SPCA Volunteer)
and Susan Kaminsky '86

SPCA of Westchester operates several programs, including a rescue program that transports and accepts animals from other shelters out of state, often those that were candidates for euthanasia in another shelter.  It operates a pet-therapy program that permits animals to provide company to those in hospices, nursing homes and hospitals.  It sponsors a humane-education program and operates the Simpson Clinic, which conducts spaying and neutering surgeries.

And it manages a volunteer program to encourage community volunteers, such as the Yale group, to support the organization and get involved--not just for a Saturday in early May, but throughout the year.  It is a "no kill" shelter, which means it doesn't support euthanasia of animals, except in cases of terminal illness.
Kate Kasoff

The shelter also has special enforcement powers, rare for shelters anywhere.  It is permitted to enforce New York State laws related to animal cruelty in Westchester and nearby New York counties without a similar animal-rights organization. 

Shannon Laukhuf acts as the current Executive Director of SPCA. Dorothy Baisley is a specialist dog trainer, and Megan Caulfield is the staff veterinarian.

They already count down the weeks and days until the next spring day in May, 2014, when the Yale Westchester horde returns to make a difference once more.


Yale alumni volunteers across the country performed a variety of chores during the Yale Day of Service, May 11, 2013, including the group of volunteers who spent their Saturday in Briarcliff Manor at the SPCA of Westchester (below).  
A memento for the day (above)
Susan Gardiner and Alexa O'Dell (below) help with filing

Camille Bustillo '95 helps Beatrice Bustillo
David Strauss handles the painting job
Juliet Strauss '17
Jennifer Sheehy '89 works with adoption packets

Meg Byerly MEM '10 with Georgia, Susan Kaminsky '86, Bruce Segall '81

Kate Kasoff with puppies

 (Photos courtesy Susan Kaminsky)

Westchester volunteers at SCPA Westchester included Jennie Blanchard MEM '08, Meg Byerly MEM '10, Jen Kasoff '95, Sara McLeod '86, Alexa O'Dell, Bruce Segall '81, Susan Strauss '83, David Strauss, Juliet Strauss '17, Camille Bustillo '95, Jennifer Colville '86, Susan Kaminsky '86, Jason Mirsky '95, Andrew Richter PhD '79, Jennifer Sheehy '89, Susan Gardiner, and Lina Xing '17. 

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