April 9-14 marked the first Hamilton Association for Volunteering, Outreach, and Charity (HAVOC) Outreach Awareness Week at Hamilton. The purpose of Awareness Week, dubbed “Burst the Bubble,” was to illustrate volunteer opportunities at Hamilton and to stress the value of community outreach. HAVOC sponsored and organized a variety of volunteer opportunities, speakers and events throughout the week, culminating with SpringFest on Saturday.
Last semester HAVOC surveyed the student body and found that many felt that they did not know how to get involved with volunteering at Hamilton. Outreach Awareness Week was therefore designed to help students get more involved in the local community and to help show why outreach is so important. HAVOC Executive Board Events Coordinators Samantha Schwartz ’13 and Jake Blumenfeld ’15 were the leaders in organizing and carrying out the events of the week. “We (at Hamilton) are in a perfect location to make real change in our community,” said Schwartz.
Throughout the week HAVOC’s regular volunteer sites ran, such as mentoring children at Johnson Park Center in Utica, assisting the elderly at the Lutheran Home in Clinton, and taking care of animals at Spring Farm Cares in Clinton.
In addition, HAVOC sponsored a variety of special events. Hamilton athletes played basketball and soccer with children from the Neighborhood Center in Utica and Kids Oneida.
Three Hamilton alumni and Career Center counselor Leslie Bell spoke in a panel about what it’s like to work in a non-profit and how to pursue a career in that sector, and Tyrone Pitts and Rev. Ursula Meier from Johnson Park Center served as the week’s keynote speakers. Pitts and. Meier spoke about their personal experiences with addiction and recovery, and their work today helping people get their second chance through places like Johnson Park Center. The non-profit organization provides emergency supportive housing for women, children and families, as well as a range of community-based support services in the areas of nutrition, recreation, mentoring and advocacy.
The week came to a close with SpringFest on Saturday, a day of community building between Hamilton and Clinton families. Thirteen campus clubs ran booths with crafts, games and food, in addition to performances by Hamilton a cappella groups.
Blumenfeld believes that the events of Outreach Awareness week had a great impact on Hamilton students. “It was a privilege witnessing children from the surrounding areas engage in sports on campus. The look of joy on their faces and the support I received from the faculty and students made this week all the more special,” said Blumenfeld.
The week was a great hit, but HAVOC Director Danielle Lashley ’13 hopes that it will be even more successful in the future. “It is always hard introducing a new event on campus,” said Lashley, “but the next time we host Awareness Week the campus will be familiar with the mission of the week, and we will hopefully get even more attendance.”
HAVOC hopes that the events of Outreach Awareness Week will encourage more Hamilton students to get more involved with volunteering and “bursting the bubble” between Hamilton and the local community now and in the future.