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Volunteers for Project America Assist 31 Local Organizations

By Jennifer Lane

Over 300 MIT students volunteered at 31 area organizations Saturday as part of Project America, a nationwide service project day co-founded by Jorey E. Ramer '95, said Christine J. Sonu '97, Project America northeast regional director.

Volunteers in 18 major cities worked at 3,000 project sites nationwide, Ramer said. More than 700 students in the Boston area participated from Simmons College, Tufts University, Wellesley College, Boston University, Harvard University, and MIT, he said.

Volunteer turnout from MIT was lower than the expected 400 participants, Sonu said. "A lot of the volunteers who said they were coming didn't show up," she said. "It wasn't as successful as I wanted it to be."

"I asked for 50 volunteers, I bought food for 50 people, I had 12 volunteers show up," said Roger Wild, director of activities of Cantabridgia Health Care, a nursing home in Cambridge. Despite the low turnout, Wild was "really happy with what the people did."

"We really need volunteers," Wild said. "The residents need to be visited at least once a day."

Due to scheduling problems, coordinators only had about one month to prepare for the project, Sonu said. "For the time that we had we did a pretty good job," she said. "The important thing was that a lot of volunteering did get done."

Twenty members of MIT's Sigma Chi chapter participated in Project America, said SC Community Relations Chair Matthew E. Esch '97. "It felt good to be able to do something MIT-wide," Esch said.

Just a starting point'

To kickoff the event, former Massachusetts Governor Michael S. Dukakis and Ramer spoke to a crowd of about 200 people in Eastman Court, the courtyard between the Infinite Corridor and Building 18.

In the opening speech, Ramer thanked President Charles M. Vest, the Undergraduate Association, and the Interfraternity Council for assisting with the event at MIT. "Alpha Tau Omega really put the day together," Ramer said. Sigma Kappa, Sigma Chi, and Sigma Phi Epsilon also sent large numbers of volunteers, he said.

Many of the volunteers came from independent living groups, Sonu said. Fifteen out of 40 living groups participated, she said.

Volunteers "did things that we don't have time to get to in a regular day," said Yvonne Shea, facilities manager for the Cambridge and Sommerville Program for Alcohol Rehabilitation shelter. "It was a good experience for everyone."

The volunteers cleaned stoves and floors at the CASPAR shelter, Shea said. "They made the kitchen shine," she said. The CASPAR shelter is open 24 hours a day, serves three meals a day, and can accommodate 55 homeless men and women, she said.

"Students were enthusiastic and motivated," said Alice Gollan, volunteer project manager for Travelers Aid Society. Travelers Aid Society administers aid to travelers in need, Gollan said. Five volunteers painted the waiting room at the society, she said.

"Today should just be a starting point," Ramer said. The purpose of the day is to "get people committed to community service in the long-term," he said.

Most organizations are in need of volunteers year round. "I would really like some students back here for Christmas or Thanksgiving," Wild said.

Timothy Fazio, a student at Pennsylvania Sate University and a former high school classmate of Ramer, and Joseph Kohli, also of Penn State, are the other two founders of the project.