Sunday, October 22, 2006

New York Cares Day!

Saturday morning at 8 am, I was NOT pleased to be waking up; Thursday's late night had caught up with me. Nonetheless, I trudged on, brewing some hot cocoa and heading to the train. I knew that soon enough I would be enjoying myself at a volunteering project.

Boyfriend's prestigious college has a NYC Alumni group, and they occasionally hold parties or volunteer together. For NYCares Day, they secured a site just for them, and so BF and I signed up for that group instead of as individuals. It seemed like a sure way to meet young and friendly people in the city.

The school was located in Spanish Harlem, where I had never been before. It reminded me of the part of Brooklyn I used to live in. The school was one that had several schools within it, and the junior high had an AP as the project manager. She was really cool, very friendly and really happy for all the help. There are nearly two hundred new students, and the school doesn't really have room for them, so they are in the process of cleaning out some closets and rooms, and brightening others with paint.

We joined some of the volunteers on the third floor, tackling an old, dirty, and very full book room. It was so crowded with junk that no one could get in very far, and the passage was pretty narrow. Upon first viewing and a quick assessment, I suggested a fire line. The others readily agreed that was the best way to tackle everything, so we passed along crates, boxes, posters, books, workbooks, and computer parts, out into the hallway.

Pretty soon the room was clear enough to get more people inside and pulling things from shelves. And within an hour, the floor was as clear as it was going to get, because all this junk was lining the hallway (the room we were clearing is that doorway all the way down on the left):

Soon enough, it was time for the next task: getting all the textbooks out. They were loaded onto mail carts and taken to a different floor--by elevator! How lucky. Anyway, they were stacked and inventoried, because they're doing a buyback program. All the old textbooks they're not using will be taken away and the company will give them money, which the school can use to get new, better ones! Very exciting that this one day of volunteer labor will have such a concrete impact on the students.

While the textbooks were being taken one place, all the workbooks were put somewhere else, because they can't get money for those.

Either way, the room got cleared out a *lot*. Look at these 'middle' shot!

Unfortunately, the 'after' is not so great. After lunch, things were being cleaned up and there wasn't enough cleared storage for all the things we'd moved out. So a lot of it had to be moved BACK into the room. We were all disappointed because it felt like moving backwards, but we tried to console ourselves that the old books had been moved out, the novel-type books (above) had been put together and sorted (by me, because I'm anal like that), the floor had been swept of dust and mouse droppings, and the stuff was organized. The AP was really happy with everything, so we had to be too.

She also assured us that it was a temporary storage situation; they will soon be removing the white bags (full of workbooks, many BRAND NEW!) and the rest of the books on shelves.

There was painting going on on another floor, but it was already three when this room was done, so they didn't need extra hands getting in the way of the painting. So we took off.

It was a really fun day. It's been awhile since I volunteered (outside of my own building, of course), and it was extra satisfying to help rejuvenate a school (though I couldn't escape all my teacher thoughts, like being outraged at seeing piles of new chart paper buried in a dusty room). The other volunteers were all friendly and hard-working. I had a great time. I hope to see even more folks out there at upcoming big volunteer events!

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