Great Barrington — If you saw a group of red shirts along the highway, or in Mason Library, or along the River Walk in Great Barrington Friday, you saw Bard College at Simon’s Rock students, faculty, and staff hard at work during the sixth annual Rock the Community day of service.
Throughout the day, more than 100 Simon’s Rock community members contributed over 400 hours volunteering with organizations in and around Great Barrington. These efforts aren’t confined to one day a year–Simon’s Rock students dedicate over 1,300 hours of community service annually to regional organizations and causes.
Organizations served this year included: Greenagers, Berkshire South Regional Community Center, The Nature Conservancy, Adopt-A-Highway, Flying Cloud Institute, Mason Library, Mass Audubon and Berkshire Natural Resources Council.
“I’m glad to help the community with my knowledge and I liked getting to know the community,” said first-year student Nancy Wen, who offered tech help to senior citizens at the Mason Library. “I enjoy working with people and look forward to doing community service more often.”
Ed Abrahams, president of the Friends of the Great Barrington Libraries and town selectman, and Holly Hamer, a member of the Friends group, both received help from Wen. “It’s great to have students at the library,” said Abrahams. “I like seeing the intergenerational work. There is more the town can do in conjunction with Simon’s Rock.”
“It means a lot to have the students come and I think it reminds people that Simon’s Rock and the community are connected,” said Amanda M. DeGiorgis, library director of Great Barrington Libraries. “A general thank you to the college is due for having this event and reaching out to Great Barrington.
Flying Cloud Institute, an organization that inspires young people and educators through dynamic science and art experiences that ignite creativity, recently relocated to Saint James Place, and needed help organizing its science and art library, especially the robotics equipment.
Simon’s Rock students helped Flying Cloud prepare its programs for the year ahead by creating a library of materials, tools, and equipment that can be shared as a STEM lending library with local public school educators, said Executive Director Maria Rundle. She said she hopes some of the students will be interested in working with the institute’s girls science clubs and STEM summer programs in the future.
Outdoor volunteer opportunities included cleaning up trails maintained by Mass Audubon and The Nature Conservancy, and along the river with Greenagers. At Berkshire South Regional Community Center, volunteers helped weed and clean up around the center.
Max Meyer, a first-year student at Simon’s Rock, volunteered with Adopt-A-Highway. “It’s nice to get off campus and help the community in which the college is such a big part of. This kind of work helps perpetuate the beauty of the area.”
The Berkshire Natural Resources Council acquired the 219-acre Thomas and Palmer Brook property on Route 23, near Koi restaurant, in 2015, and is creating a hiking trail through the woodland area by working with an existing woods road and cutting new tread, said Mariah Auman, volunteer and outreach coordinator with the Council. Simon’s Rock staff members helped remove invasive species, such as multiflora rose and barberry, and cleared a pathway along the woods road and old apple orchard.
First-year student Georgie Godfrey visits the River Walk along the Housatonic River often, so she chose to volunteer with the Greenagers. “I’ve wanted to work with the Greenagers and hope to explore more community service opportunities.”
“We’re so grateful for this yearly event put on by Simon’s Rock. Encouraging young people to take ownership in the efforts of their community is critical to our future as a whole,” said Betty Banker, special events and operation manager of Berkshire South Regional Community Center. “The operations and services of the community center are heavily reliant upon the strength provided by our generous volunteers. It is so great to see the students on site, helping with a smile each year. We have immense appreciation for the community-wide effort.”
Back on campus, students created postcards of encouragement and love to be sent to students in Charlottesville as part of the #DearYoungPerson campaign. “It is important to support others who are dealing with difficult situations,” said Angus MacLeod, a first-year student.
“What I have found most rewarding is that, while our students and faculty and staff here on campus serve the campus and local communities in so many different ways, this is a day when we come together to serve collectively,” said Simon’s Rock faculty member Anne O’Dwyer, who has been participating in Rock the Community since its inception. “It means a lot to me that it is named in honor of Emily Fisher, who has been so generous in her service and contributions to Simon’s Rock and to so many communities.”
Rock the Community was established in the 2012 fall semester to celebrate the leadership of Emily Fisher, former chair of the Board of Overseers at Simon’s Rock, for her commitment to the college and organizations in the region. Fisher served as chair of the board for 17 years before stepping down at the end of the 2013 academic year.