Just three miles from Springfield College’s Alden Street campus sprawls Forest Park, a 735-acre city landmark that is a playground for local residents, a sporting venue for area high school students, and an off-campus retreat for college students.
This Sunday, April 13, the college’s Project for Sustainability club is sponsoring a volunteer event to clean up the park’s zoo, which opened for the season on Monday.
Julia Berve, the club’s vice president, said the college and the park have been trying to forge a relationship for quite some time. Now, through the existence of Project Sustainability, which was founded last year, the city staple will have its chance.
“Forest Park has been reaching out to Springfield for years now to help them out with this,” Berve said. “This year we have a very passionate group of people and we’ve really reached out to the community to get people involved.”
So far 50 people have committed to the clean-up, according to group secretary Julia Cone, but additional volunteers are more than welcome. While Project Sustainability has reached out to members of the college community through emails and fliers telling the details of Sunday’s service project, it emphasizes that the event is open to anyone who wants to be involved.
Elizabeth Tomanio, the group’s treasurer, said she is excited that this project has finally taken shape.
Not only is it the club’s first big event of the year, but it also is its first trip off campus.
“We’ve been planning this for a few months at least,” Tomanio said. “It was an idea that our advisor had given to us in the fall. He had mentioned that Forest Park kept coming to him with this idea and he never had a group that he thought could put it into motion and get a good volunteer base.
“Hopefully it will become an annual tradition that people can do in the future.”
Berve hopes that the experience is also an opportunity to recruit people to join Project Sustainability’s mission to increase environmental awareness at the college itself.
“A lot of the time we’re focusing on our campus,” Berve said, “but we want to extend it out into the community. Forest Park supports our mission, so we want to give back to them.”
The service project, which will begin at 8 a.m., will involve cleaning animal cages, raking and painting the zoo building, among other tasks. Transportation will be provided, which, according to Tomanio, will hopefully be a way to involve students who wish to participate in service but don’t always have the means to travel to different sites.
Other draws to the event, according to the members of Project Sustainability, include free food, T-shirts, face-painting and a chance to enjoy the beautiful weather that is forecasted for Sunday with friends who have joined together for a common cause. Most importantly, however, is what club co-president Bobby Romano and vice president of marketing Pat Smith describe as a chance to fulfill Springfield’s mission of service to others.
Looking into the future, Project Sustainability’s president, Mike Chicoine, says the group is hoping to collaborate with the college’s Outing Club and Sporting Club on a possible interactive event that would take place on Earth Day on April 22.
While Earth Day is still a couple of weeks away, Sunday’s event will be a good chance for students looking to take a step away from their studies and get a breath of fresh air as the push toward finals begins and, as Project Sustainability says, “to give back to the greater Springfield community while gaining an appreciation for nature and its beauty.”