Helping Hands: Spruce-up project is prelude to Day of Service

Member of the GE Advanced Supply Chain Tracks Program Zoltan Danyl of Hungary pulls on a root to prepare the playground in front of Girls Inc. on Albany Street with fresh mulch Wednesday, September 2, 2015. (Peter Barber/Gazette Photographer)Member of the GE Advanced Supply Chain Tracks Program Zoltan Danyl of Hungary pulls on a root to prepare the playground in front of Girls Inc. on Albany Street with fresh mulch Wednesday, September 2, 2015. (Peter Barber/Gazette Photographer)

BY REBECCA ISENHART
Gazette Reporter

SCHENECTADY — On Sept. 2, a group of 25 GE employees from all over the world visited Girls Inc. in Schenectady to pull weeds, paint walls and make friends.

In matching purple shirts and enormous smiles, the volunteers, who were in town for professional development, made short work of brightening up the Albany Street building.

Girls Inc. is a free afterschool program that seeks to empower girls by teaching them about math, science, nutrition, health, careers and many other subjects.

First, the volunteers took on the playground, which is on Girls Inc. grounds but is open to all neighborhood children.

“It was really overgrown with weeds,” said Whitney Freemau, a volunteer in town from Austin, Texas. Eighteen of the volunteers banded together and tackled the project in less than an hour, including spreading a fresh layer of mulch.

Ashley Jeffrey Bouck, executive director of Girls Inc. of the Greater Capital Region, said the girls who helped with the project were delighted by the transformation. One walked outside and said, “It’s a new playground!”

Olivia Rowell, 10, left, and Laniece Graham, 9, both of Niskayuna helps volunteers from GE Advanced Supply Chain Tracks Program with painting a room at Girls Inc. on Albany Street Wednesday, September 2, 2015. (Peter Barber/Gazette Photographer)

Olivia Rowell, 10, left, and Laniece Graham, 9, both of Niskayuna helps volunteers from GE Advanced Supply Chain Tracks Program with painting a room at Girls Inc. on Albany Street Wednesday, September 2, 2015. (Peter Barber/Gazette Photographer)

Afterward, they joined the rest of the volunteers and the young Girls Inc. members in priming a classroom with fresh paint.

“They jumped right in,” volunteer Adepeju Adeniji said of the young girls who showed up to pitch in. They seemed excited about school. They’re just inquisitive and it was fun.”

After two hot, sweaty hours of weeding and painting, the volunteers expressed pride in what they had accomplished.

“I love painting,” said Olivia Rowell, a fifth-grader and Girls Inc. member. “I’m probably going to tell my friends I did the wall.”

GE often partners with Girls Inc. whenever volunteers are needed, but this event was particularly special: Organized by the Niskayuna Community Foundation as part of its 15th anniversary, the volunteers’ work was a preview of what’s to come later this month. On Saturday, Sept. 26, the foundation will hold a day of service in honor of its anniversary. The organization hosts a day of service every year, but in honor of its 15-year milestone, this year’s will be much larger.

“We decided to celebrate our 15th year. We wanted to do something different,” said Maggie Rush Vinciguerra, the foundation’s vice president.

“We’ve selected 15 different service sites throughout the area,” she continued. “Some of them are indoor projects, some of them outdoor projects, and with each site we’ve secured a site sponsor, a community business.”

Circumstances required that the Girls Inc. project be completed early, but the rest will be done all at once, in one very busy day.

Rush Vinciguerra said the goal is to publicize the foundation’s mission while simultaneously giving back to the town.

“We want people to know who we are, and we want people to know that we are a great resource for the Niskayuna community,” she said. “If someone is thinking, ‘Wow, I really want to help, I really want to make a financial contribution to my community, but I don’t know where the need is greatest,’ we want to make it known. That’s what we do,” she said. “We shepherd those donations.”

Foundation projects include partnerships with the school district and senior center, donations of food to the food pantry and a weekend backpack program for students whose families may not have enough food.

The foundation hopes to enlist at least 150 volunteers for its day of service at the end of September. Rush Vinciguerra said there are opportunities for adults and children alike, and she plans to attend with her two young children, ages 7 and 9.

The day of volunteering will wrap up with a party at LT’s Grill from 7 to 10:30 p.m., with local “celebrity” bartenders mixing drinks.

Pre-registration is required for volunteering. To learn more or sign up, visit http://niskayunacf.org.

About the Author

Rebecca Isenhart
Rebecca Isenhart is the reporter/writer for Your Niskayuna, presented by the Daily Gazette of Schenectady.