Community volunteers recognized at award ceremony

Campus and community volunteers were honored at the fourth annual Volunteer and Service Awards Dinner at Big Tree Inn on Tuesday March 24. Community members nominated the volunteers, who were presented with an award and recognition.

The purpose of the award is “to highlight the wonderful work that our students do and to thank people,” according to Associate Dean of Leadership and Service Thomas Matthews. Students, faculty and Geneseo residents were invited to nominate anyone on campus with a commitment to improving the community through service.

This year, five students, one faculty member, three organizations and a community member were honored at the ceremony and dinner. Matthews noted that while dozens of awards are given out on campus for students who exhibit values such as leadership, this event has gotten excellent feedback for focusing exclusively on community service.

“Because community service is so important as part of our values, we wanted to do something to highlight the work that people––particularly our students––do in the community,” Matthews said. “We thought that having a nice dinner with nice awards, doing a first class event would matter and I can tell you that it has.”

Held in Big Tree Inn, this swanky event had attendees dressed to the nines and mingling at small round tables. In addition to award winners and Geneseo faculty, Geneseo Mayor Richard Hatheway was also in attendance and opened the event with a speech.

The awards were chosen out of a pool of nominations, which anyone in the community could submit. It was also acceptable to nominate oneself for an award. The student recipients were seniors Nicholas Brancato, Tyler Brickler, David Ernst, Jennifer Grom and junior John Saugy.

Nominated by the local fire department, Brancato got his award for being a lieutenant EMT and first assistant chief for Geneseo First Response. Brickler advocated for awareness and fundraising through the county-wide “I Believe in Jack–Down Syndrome Awareness” campaign. Ernst, the vice president of Alpha Phi Omega, has volunteered for a variety of causes throughout his undergraduate career. Grom was a Youth Delegate at the 2014 World Conference on Youth and worked collaboratively on a number of international service projects. As philanthropy chair of the Sigma Nu Chi fraternity, Saugy has participated in service trips and organized a number of projects through Sig Nu.

The faculty award went to distinguished teaching professor of mathematics Gary Towsley, who heads “The Philanthropic Chefs” which services homeless teens in New York State. This project serves hundreds of people each year and has also raised over $250,000 to aid underprivileged youth.

In addition, Hippies for Hope, the National Residence Hall Honorary and Sig Nu were recognized for outstanding volunteer efforts. Matthews said that the award is meant to honor students that are working according to the college’s mission statement of creating socially responsible citizens, which these organizations accomplished.

The final award went to The Livingston County Office for the Aging and its director Kaaren Smith, who is retiring in the near future. “We always try to honor a community partner … those who do a good job embracing our students, giving them great experiences and so on,” Matthews explained. The office worked closely with Geneseo to incorporate student volunteers into their projects.

The award highlights volunteering as character building and thus important to a liberal arts education. “Is it all about job training for a career? I hope not,” Matthews said.