SPRINGFIELD — More than 700 Springfield College students, mostly freshmen, fanned out across the city Saturday to help local nonprofits, churches and older residents with projects that needed a little extra help.
Students, including some faculty and staff, worked at 32 sites around the city and helped with yard work, outdoor cleaning, window washing, painting and similar jobs.
Upper Class Team Leader Erin Smith said new student orientation includes first-year students reaching out to the community at large.
“The NSO is a program for new students, freshmen, who come to college to acclimate them and prepare them for the semester, and introduce them to new people in their age bracket.”
Smith and his team were painting rail fences at Forest Park Zoo, a necessary but tedious and labor-intensive job. The Springfield College team was able to refresh an important series of fencing in a matter of hours.
You could easily flag the freshmen as they worked on Saturday. Each wore a beanie-style hat with 2026 on the front – their graduation year. It used to be that the beanie was mandatory for the entire first year of a freshman, but that tradition has faded and now the beanie is only required for the ONS weekend.
A new greenhouse at the Friends of the Homeless shelter on Worthington Street got a little closer to reality on Saturday, thanks to a team from Springfield College.
Allison Weismann, a volunteer and project development manager at the shelter, said Way Fair, a furniture and household goods supplier, donated a greenhouse structure to help provide fresh vegetables to people at the shelter. The only problem was finding a place to put the 10-by-12-foot structure under cover.
“We made a big garden in another section of the site, and now we are planning this greenhouse,” she said.
Refuge officials eventually identified a good spot for the greenhouse, but it’s an area that has gone wild for, apparently, years. Armed with a weeder and other menacing-looking tools, the NSO team dove in and were able to clear the overgrown section and provide Weismann with a clearer picture of his options.
Smith said the socialization aspect of the OSN is an important part of the program, but by no means the whole of it. Service is an important part of being a Springfield College student, she said.
“A big part of Springfield College’s mission is ‘mind, spirit, body, and service and leadership to others,'” she said. ‘ONS, new students come out and do various things to help out in our community, because that’s just something we really stand for.