SCHENECTADY — When the sign-up sheets were posted in the Town Hall, building inspector
Thomas Cannizzo knew exactly where he wanted to sign up.
“My grandson loves MiSci and we love coming out here. It’s nice to give back to it,” said Cannizzo.
On May 25, town employees were given the choice to take the day off, work their normal hours,
or volunteer their time to one of four causes. The town called the event Leap of Kindness Day.
One of the volunteer sites was at the Museum of Innovation and Science in Schenectady.
A group of six employees worked with David Haley of MiSci to clear out brush from the small
park in front of the building and plant flowers in the back area of the building.
“This is great because I wouldn’t have been able to do something like this on my own,” said Haley.
The small park features an old locomotive and is a well-known landmark. But the property had
not been cared for. Weeds had taken over, the grass had not been mowed, and litter was abundant.
Town Planner Laura Robertson said, “I came out here because I love to work outside and like giving back to the community.” She also expressed hope that her daughter, now only 2, would someday enjoy going to the museum.
Another volunteer site was with a house that Habitat for Humanity had been working to build since last year. The project was lead by James Gekakis of Habitat and even though many volunteers came with little construction experience, Gekakis taught each of them the
skills needed to work toward completing the door frames and the laminate flooring in the house.
Karen McLane of Habitat for Humanity said “We want people to leave having learned something
new and able to see the result of their work.”
Some of the more technical parts of building the Habitat houses used to be reserved for volunteers who had prior construction experience.
But then Gekakis joined the organization in May 2015, and he was willing to teach others from all of his experience in construction.
“I come from a construction family. My father did this and I’ve been doing this all my life. But I
love working here. The work is the same every day but the people just amaze me,” said Gekakis.
At the site, Councilman Bill McParlton worked on laying down laminate flooring with other town
“It speaks very well as to the nature of the people in Niskayuna,” McParlton said.
At another volunteer site, town employees were sorting 36,000 pounds of food at the Schenectady Inner City Ministry. The warehouse was a flurry of food being packaged,
organized and moved around.
“We serve over 30,000 meals a month and we sold 445,815 meals last year,” said Janet Mattis of SICM.
The food had recently been donated by the Postal Service through the Stamp Out Hunger food drive.
But there was so much to sort that the SICM was glad to have the extra volunteers.
“I used to volunteer at the pantry in Latham and I was always so amazed at how much work went into just sorting the food for every family,” said Lois Meschino, a town employee.
In the fourth volunteer site, five other volunteers were sorting through clothing to be given to the homeless or sold at a thrift store or online to raise money for the City Mission of Schenectady.
“The distribution center gets over 100,000 pounds of clothing donations a month,” said the City
Mission’s Jessie Vanasdale.
Nothing is wasted from these donations. The first destination for the clothing is for the residents of the City Mission’s homeless shelter.
Then, donations will be given to the thrift shop that the Mission runs in Glenville as well as their
E-Bay account. If any of the donations is unusable, the Mission will sell them to a recycling company to be used to make cleaning supplies.
The Mission gives a home to many men and women in Schenectady every night. They have 76
beds for men and 35 for women and children. But the Mission also works to provide residents with the skills needed to obtain a job so that they are able to get back on their feet.
As Barbera Nottke, one volunteer from the town, sorted through one of the enormous bins of clothing, she recalled a realization she’d had while volunteering with the Mission: “If I have clothes that I think are unusable, I just throw them away.”
Now that she knows that the Mission uses everything, she will be taking her donations to
Joe Landry, the town supervisor, volunteered at each site throughout the day. “A ‘Leap of Kindness Day’ offers employees a great opportunity to simply do something nice for someone else,” he said.