For the first time in 25 years, there is no Reach Out Saint Rose. I have had the unbelievable gift of being part of all 25 of the past Reach Out Saint Rose events, and I am finding it more difficult than I expected to not have this wonderful campus event as part of our plans this fall.
Originally slated for Saturday, September 12, 2020, canceling the event was a hard decision to make, and in fact, we tried to avoid that decision for a long time. I made a lot of phone calls to our community partners at various service sites and tried to envision how we could make volunteering happen with many new protocols and social distancing in place. I talked to bus companies about how they could space us out on buses and how much more it would cost to transport us. We talked about food and how to feed students safely. And in the end, after exploring all of our options, the fact that Reach Out Saint Rose is just not a socially distant event became unavoidable.
Some of what defines Reach Out is the very un-socially-distant gathering in the gym, the packing of our folks onto buses, and the working closely at many of our locations. But there is more to Reach Out Saint Rose than the volunteer hours put in and outcomes accomplished. There is a spirit you can feel — it starts with the first person who arrives to sign in, and lasts until the final group of organizers put away their materials and grab the last box of pizza.
While Reach Out Saint Rose this year cannot be what it was in the past, that spirit can still endure. We refocused our efforts on a new campaign, dubbed “Reach Out Hits the Road” that asks Saint Rose administrators, staff, faculty, students, alumni, and family members to lace up their sneakers and take part in a virtual “race” from now until December 12, 2020 (it’s actually more like a slow-paced marathon). The money we raise by participating in this 100-mile challenge will go toward the Dennis McDonald Student Emergency Fund, which is used to provide financial relief to students in need. Learn more about this effort here. Although this deviates from our tradition, it still serves the mission of the College by raising funds for those in need, fostering connections with our neighbors, and inspiring our community to achieve healthy goals.
And there are other ways to send messages to our community to tell them, “We see you, and we have not forgotten about you.” Now, more than ever, people and organizations need volunteers. Our “dear neighbors” are all around us.
We witness just a small sample of this each week when so many of our neighbors line up at the food pantry at St. Vincent De Paul Parish on Madison Avenue right around the corner from Saint Rose. This food pantry is just one of many organizations in need of volunteers committed to showing up each week and feeding hundreds of people.
This is a time when small things matter.
Last spring, students from the Catholic Student Organization started writing letters to people who were isolated in their rooms in nursing homes. I received an email from the director of programs there, telling me how much joy those letters bring to people who have no contact with loved ones right now — or, maybe ever. Such a small act of reaching out made lives better: both ours and theirs.
This is a time when reaching out matters.
As I called local service organizations, trying to plan Reach Out Saint Rose, they were desperate for help in picking vegetables, sorting donations, stocking shelves, and preparing food bags. And we can still help. While transporting large numbers of folks in buses doesn’t fit with safety protocols, we can reach out in groups of two or three to support the work of these organizations.
This is a time when community matters, perhaps more than ever.
A great way to connect your acts of service with our campus is through the 100 Hours of Service Campaign, which is part of the College’s centennial celebration. Milestones like centennial years invite us to look at where we came from — on whose shoulders we stand — and what that means. It is in the Saint Rose DNA to care for others. The College was founded by the guiding spirit of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Over the years, our founders looked around the city of Albany and saw a need to provide educational access to women, and in turn, teach them to be stewards of community service. Now is the time to look around and ask, what are the needs of our time? How can we be stewards to our community today?
This semester, the Office of Spiritual Life is providing opportunities, some virtual, some campus-based, that will allow our community to stay involved and engaged in small ways. We are planning to organize service opportunities that can be done safely, such as making blankets for children in shelters or tote bags for children to take food home from after-school programs or paracord bracelets for those in the military.
We also have a long list of community partners, with whom we normally connect through Reach Out Saint Rose, who need volunteers. If you would like to find ways to connect with local organizations, please reach out to either me or Meg Parascandola, our new coordinator of community service. We both look forward to expanding the intention and inspiration of Reach Out Saint Rose beyond a single day to an entire year. Our “dear neighbors” await.
Why serve now?
Service is one of those things that serves oneself as much as the people to whom we reach out. It is known to ease anxiety and depression. It helps us get out of the rabbit hole of feeling sorry for ourselves and connects us with others. When the students from the Catholic Student Organization started writing to nursing home residents, they took their loneliness and used it for a purpose.
In addition to lifting one’s spirit, service can help shape and define your life. If you are wondering where to start, then start with reflecting on what it is in the world that breaks your heart. That will tell you where you might want to dedicate your time and energy.
— by Joan Horgan, director of spiritual life
Looking for new volunteer opportunities or other ways to serve? Then contact the following:
Director of Spiritual Life Joan Horgan: Horganj@strose.edu
Student Development Coordinator Meg Parascandola: firstname.lastname@example.org