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Volunteers distribute mulch at Riverside Park

Dennis Shen 07 and Greta Kirschner 03 dispose of Christmas trees and distribute mulch at Mulchfest at Riverside Park in New York City. See larger image

Cornellians scour, mulch, sort, shovel and hammer in New York City for day of caring

Scouring a dirty oven at Sylvia's Place, a shelter for homeless and runaway gay youth in Manhattan. Feeding discarded Christmas trees into a whirring wood chipper at Riverside Park. Serving a hearty, three-course meal to HIV-positive residents in the Bronx. Organizing clothing donations for Women in Need, a community center in Brooklyn.

For 65 Cornell alumni and 15 Cornell students in New York City, and hundreds of alumni and students in 20 other cities -- including Shanghai -- who also volunteered for Cornell Cares Day, Jan. 9 certainly was not just another lazy Saturday morning.

Volunteer at Riverside Park

Dave Miller 04, also at Riverside Park. See larger image

The Big Red met up at 9 a.m. at the Arsenal, a historic building in Central Park, then scattered across the city to work.

"I went to the ag school, so I figured I would go back to my roots," said Greta Kirschner '03, who braved the cold with 19 other Cornellians to participate in New York City Park and Recreation's event Mulchfest 2010, turning Christmas trees into mulch. "I don't really get to do stuff like this very often, so it seemed like a natural continuation of the Cornell experience."

At the Carl Schurz, Riverside and Tompkins Square parks in Manhattan, Cornellians cut decorations off trees and wreaths, dragged them into the wood chippers and shoveled mulch into bags for passersby to use in their gardens.

"I think that the education about what to do with your waste and how to minimize it is an important part to this, as well as taking the waste and turning it into something that is now a valuable good," said Dave Miller '04.

Volunteer at Sylvia's Place shelter

Sonia Irving 09 volunteers at Sylvias Place, a homeless shelter in New York City. See larger image

Another 18 students and alumni volunteered at Sylvia's Place for some heavy cleaning and organizing of the food pantry, clothing donations and linens.

"We cleaned the bathrooms, and then we sorted the toiletries, making it look like a hotel. It's a homeless shelter, obviously, but we wanted it to feel a bit more homey," said Naomi Rothwell '03, who ran out to buy laundry detergent, sponges and can openers after learning that Sylvia's Place was so lacking in supplies that staff members were using shampoo in the washing machine.

Cornellians also headed to the outer boroughs. Some went to the Bronx to help out at two Archdiocese of New York projects: the thrift store, where they created price tags for items and signed up elderly people for discount cards, and Momentum, where they served lunch and packed and distributed care packages to people living with HIV. Others went to Brooklyn to help out Women in Need, where they collected and transferred donated clothing, organized closets and hung donated paintings around the building.

"For me, I think the best moments were when one alum asked the staff at Sylvia's Place how he could get involved in helping them look for funding and when another, at the very end of the day, told me he hoped we would be able to make Cornell Cares Day more than just an annual event," said Shiri B. Shandler '05, who co-chaired the event with Timothy Fu '05, and spent the day at Sylvia's Place. "It meant that [they] became invested in the sites they were at and in the idea of giving back to the city in general."

The annual Cornell Cares Days are coordinated by Cornell clubs across the country and the Cornell Public Service Center.

Liz Borod Wright '99 is a freelance writer in New York City.

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NYC Web page highlights news, events, opportunities

The new Cornell in NYC Web page,, unites a variety of New York City-related content in a single location.

The page, designed by Cornell's Office of Web Communications, is dominated by an image of the city's skyline beneath a vivid red sky.

News and events populate two columns on the page, which also includes a selection of videos of events from around the city.

Also on the page: a clickable illustration of Cornell offices in Manhattan, a link to the Campus to Campus bus service and a link to the Winter 2010 issue of Ezra magazine, which focused on Cornell in New York City.

Finally, the page links to the CU in the City blog, which highlights events, opportunities for alumni involvement, interviews with prominent Cornellians and reviews of cultural offerings with a Cornell connection.

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