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Back to Work Service Day

March 7, 2012

By Michael Cohn-Geltner, Service Team Leader

The parades that rolled down St. Charles Avenue leave literally tons of trash in their wake.  Beads of all colors, plastic bags, and assorted flashing do-do’s fill gutters and clog streetcar tracks.  After the fire truck rolls by, the cleaning begins.  Front loaders pick up trash heaps while street sweepers suck up the stray beads and cups.

Only a few blocks from the parade route in Central City deserted lots pile up with garbage and blighted houses rot on their foundations.  To get back into the idealism swing, City Year New Orleans teamed up with the New Orleans Neighborhood Development Collaborative, The James M. Singleton Charter School, Urban Strategies and the Food and Farm Network on February 24, for the first annual Back to Work Service Day.

Project Leader Andrew Sheeley explained the motivation behind the event, “I thought this would be the best way to come back to work after our festive Mardi Gras break.”

Originally, this service day would only include the City Year New Orleans corps.  However, a group of students from University of Delaware who were in town for Mardi Gras called Andrew looking for a volunteer opportunity.  He scaled up the service day to accommodate thirty extra volunteers.  Corps members also brought friends who were in town for Mardi Gras.  Even some members of the N.O.N.D.C decided to volunteer.

Corps Member Veronica Giraldo suggested that to keep spirits high the day should have a Mardi Gras theme.  Instead of teams we had Krewes. Corps members and volunteers donned Mardi Gras beads while working.  King Cake was served as dessert.

The plan for the day was to paint all the exterior staircases and the front gate of the James M. Singelton Charter School, clear two blighted lots, build three picnic tables and benches at A.L. Davis Park, and prep a community garden site.  Due to the on-again-off again rain, painting the staircases and gates was no longer an option.  Instead those volunteers went inside and painted panel murals of figures such as Bob Marley, Angela Davis, and Doctor Seuss.  Despite the showers, corps members and volunteers muscled through the garden, lot clearing, and construction projects to accomplish their goals.

Allie Hanik, one of the students who volunteered said, “Everyone had a great time.”

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