Students Demonstrate That “Charity Begins At Home”Contact: Maja Tarateta
TARRYTOWN, N.Y. — Marymount College of Fordham University senior Gladis Molina knows that it’s sometimes the ordinary, everyday acts of kindness that make the biggest impact on those in need. Her philosophy and leadership have helped bring together three-dozen students devoted to community service who reside together on a floor in Gailhac Hall. To live on the floor, students must commit to participating in at least one community service event each month – but often do more individually and as a group.
“People think that to make a difference you have to do something big,” said Molina, who is the floor leader and is pursuing a business major with a concentration in accounting. “But by doing little things like we do, you can change the world, little by little.”
As a group, students who live on the community service floor hold several events each month, including “midnight runs” delivering food and clothing to the homeless in New York City, fund-raisers for local social service organizations and visits with elderly residents of a nearby nursing home.
“The students are very committed, especially the ones that come every week,” said Marie Tor-chon, recreation therapist for St. Cabrini Nursing Home in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., where students help run games for the 300 residents. “The one-on-one visits, the residents really like.”
Students also plan several larger events each year. Most recently, they organized two blood drives for Hudson Valley Blood Services, a division of the New York Blood Center, which serves 52 hospitals in the Hudson Valley area. The drives collected a total of 90 pints of blood, enough to help 450 people in need, according to Sandy Cohen, account manager for the organization.
“Without the students participating, without them going out and asking their friends and getting the message out, the blood drive wouldn’t happen,” Cohen said. “On the day of the drive, they’re there helping out as well.”
The floor was created in 1999 at the suggestion of students who believed such a program would build upon the college’s strong emphasis on outreach and service. Themed floors were not new; sections of residence halls were already devoted to international and honors students. But organizers believed this program would be unique in the connections it made between the students and the surrounding neighborhoods.
“Performing community service is a powerful thing for the soul,” said Molina, who has served as resident adviser for two of the three years she has lived on the floor. “Residents get extremely excited about it, which sometimes leads to them taking an active part in a program independently. They also be-come more aware of their surroundings, become better neighbors.”
Since its creation, the program has consistently filled the 35 spaces on the floor and sometimes has had to turn people away because interest has been so high, Molina said. Students who don’t live on the floor are also welcomed to the monthly meetings and service events.
As the school year closes, residents of the floor have been coordinating efforts to work with Safe Haven, a counseling program for children with AIDS. Students are also planning to invite area children to campus for a day of mentoring, and to host an ice cream social to raise funds for Momma’s Kitchen, which provides meals to families with AIDS.
Founded in 1841, Fordham is New York City’s Jesuit University. Enrolling approximately 15,000 students in its 11 undergraduate, graduate and professional schools, Fordham has residential campuses in the Bronx, Manhattan and Tarrytown, and the Louis Calder Center Biological Field Station in Armonk, N.Y.