Coming together on Cornell Cares Day

Cornell Club of Mid-America volunteers packaged diapers for hospitals and neighbors in need.

Cornell University is deeply committed to enhancing the lives of people in communities around the world. In the spirit of public service, Cornellians have set aside a day dedicated to serving their neighbors. Cornell Cares Day is one of the most popular events hosted by regional Cornell clubs and associations all year.

Cornell Cares Day on January 11, 2020, was marked by more than 40 events, with more than 450 volunteers coming together to serve. Cornell students, alumni, and their families helped sort food and clothing donations, visited with senior citizens, prepared meals, and performed other acts of service for their neighbors.

Some clubs organize and participate in Cornell Cares Days events a few times a year, because Cornell cares every day.
—Sonja Watkins Kelly, senior associate director, Regional Alumni Engagement

Cornell connects with community service

Cornell Cares Day began in the early 2000s, when the Cornell Public Service Center (PSC) launched a day of service with a few Cornell clubs. Cornell alumni responded so enthusiastically that the Office of Alumni Affairs worked with the PSC to include all Cornell clubs and associations around the world.

“Each year the event has grown to involve more alumni,” says Sonja Watkins Kelly, senior associate director, Regional Alumni Engagement. “Some clubs organize and participate in Cornell Cares Days events a few times a year, because Cornell cares every day,” said Kelly, who served as project lead for this year’s event.

Cornell Club of Austin participants ranged from 9 years old to over 60 years old and included multi-generational alumni families.
Cornell Club of Austin participants ranged from 9 years old to over 60 years old and included multi-generational alumni families.

Most recently, the clubs have opened up their registration to encourage students who are home on winter break to join in Cornell Cares Day events. This year, Cornellians of all ages served side by side, including prospective and newly accepted students looking to connect with alumni and learn more about Cornell.

Many volunteers commented on how much they enjoyed the chance to include their families in this collective effort. “I love that it’s a family event where my kids can connect Cornell with community service,” said Dana Niedzielska ’92, who helped sort and organize donations of new and gently used clothing, shoes, and coats with the Cornell Alumni Association of Westchester.

Helping others makes me feel good

A handful of the many highlights of Cornell Cares Day 2020 include:

  • Cornell Club of Ocean and Monmouth Counties volunteers visited Brighton Gardens Assisted Living facility, where they made origami and jars of paperwhite planting bulbs, led a men’s discussion, did a crossword puzzle, and participated in a group sing-along.
  • Cornell Club of Ithaca volunteers collected and donated 406 pairs of socks to Saint John’s Homeless Shelter.
  • Cornell Club of Northeastern Ohio hosted three events, including one at the Cleveland Food Bank where volunteers of all ages sorted 13,004 pounds of food for distribution to their neighbors across northeastern Ohio.
  • Cornell Club of Boston volunteers prepared a community lunch for the families staying at the Ronald McDonald House Boston Harbor.
  • Cornell Club of Austin worked with the Central Texas Food Bank to sort enough food to provide 10,625 meals for local Texas families. “A little bit of time and effort working together can go a long way towards helping those in need in our community,” said volunteer Nicole Blair ’96.
  • Cornell Club of Mid-America volunteered with Happy Bottoms to package 21,830 diapers for distribution to hospitals and families in Kansas City. “Spending a small amount of time during my break helping others made me feel good,” said volunteer and current student Emlen Brown ’22.
  • Cornell Club of Northern New Jersey brought 150 Cornellians and their families together to pack and sort food for hungry families across New Jersey. “In my opinion, volunteering is the cornerstone of society,” said Jimmy Dumas ’92. “It started with just me and my four sons, then my wife started coming, and now we have friends who come as well.”

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Eleanor Applewhaite and Pauline Degenfelder at the Cornell Alumni Leadership Conference (CALC).

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