For years, volunteers with the Cornell Club of Ithaca have been supporting the local community. From hosting club events at area restaurants to support small business owners, to donating 400 pairs of socks to a homeless shelter last January, members do their part to give back to the Ithaca community.

Typically, club members participate in Cornell Cares Day each January, a day-long effort to engage Cornellians in community volunteer experiences around the globe. This year looks a bit different, says Club President Philip Robinson MA ’13, also director of Library Systems for Cornell University. But Robinson says the Cornell Club of Ithaca has no plans to slow down, as the need for local volunteers has only increased.

“With the pandemic, there’s an even greater need for these kinds of things than last year,” he says.

This year, the entire month of January has become Cornell Cares Month for the club. Volunteers with the Cornell Club of Ithaca will adopt local food cabinets in partnership with Mutual Aid Tompkins, an Ithaca organization founded in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic on the concept of “neighbors supporting neighbors.” The organization has created a network of food sharing cabinets throughout Tompkins County, with a few in Cortland County, as well.

The main issue we’re trying to address is food insecurity in the area. There’s far more need this year than last year.
—Philip Robinson MA ’13

Mutual Aid Tompkins cabinets are open to anyone in need of food, 24 hours, every day of the week. Any members of the community can take or leave items, and a full list of what items are best to donate in the winter months is available on their website.

Robinson and Cornell Club of Ithaca Board event leaders CJ DelVecchio Croft ’88 and Joyce Muchan ’97, who organized the initiative, hope club members and volunteers can keep the most-used cabinets in Ithaca stocked for all of January through this partnership. With ten cabinets on their list to keep full of non-perishables and other items, the club hopes at least 20-30 volunteers will step up.

“The main issue we’re trying to address is food insecurity in the area,” Robinson says. In 2018, Tompkins County had an estimated 10,720 food-insecure individuals, according to That number is likely much higher this year due to the pandemic and its economic impacts. “There’s far more need this year than last year,” he says.

Cornell Club of Ithaca members standing beneath a mural in Ithaca
Cornell Club of Ithaca members participate in a sock drive in January 2020.

Giving back in this way, Robinson notes, is also not a one-time thing. “It’s not just the month of January that people are hungry,” he says.

The club plans to continue supporting local businesses and community members beyond January, and hopes others will consider doing the same. Giving back to help those in your own community, no matter where you live, Robinson says, “is just the right thing to do.”

In Ithaca, and want to help? You can sign up to adopt a cabinet near you for a week in January. Not in Ithaca? Find another Cornell Cares Day volunteer opportunity.

You can also reach out to the Cornell Club of Ithaca, Robinson says, for other ways to help with the January campaign or to share ideas for future ways to give back. Check out their website and Facebook page for more details and contact information.