COVE Celebrates 20 Years of Community Service


CELEBRATING COMMUNITY OUTREACH: COVE volunteers help clean up trails in a previous day of service. This year, students worked with organizations such as Community Bikes, Madison Lane and Community Garden to improve the Hamilton community.

The Max A. Shacknai Center for Outreach, Volunteerism, and Education (COVE) began celebrating its accomplishments on Sept. 10 as part of its 20th anniversary. According to the COVE instagram (@colgatecove), the celebration will include a series of events stretching to the month of May.

The COVE is a fundamental part of the campus community. Since its founding in 2001, “more than 10,000 students have contributed to more than 500,000 service hours, equaling almost $12 million in salary savings to community partners,” according to the COVE’s page on the official Colgate website. The director of the COVE, Jeremy Wattles, graduated from Colgate in 2005 and reflected on its founding mission. 

Future events will include the Common Good Professional Network Event in February, which according to the COVE instagram is described as “Government Service: From Local to Global.” Additionally, the Alumni Club’s Day of Service in March will take place on Colgate’s Charter Day, March 5, and will focus on current issues in public health.   

The COVE originated with former Dean of the College Adam Weinberg, Betsy Levine and other student leaders who felt there needed to be a home for volunteer and civic engagement activities on campus,” Wattles said.

According to Wattles, his role as director of the COVE includes guiding the center towards institutional and community-based goals, while supporting staff to set up signature programs like the Day of Service on Saturday, Oct. 2. The COVE hosts days of service throughout the year where students can volunteer to spend the day at the location of a local organization. A total of 30 students signed up to participate and celebrate the anniversary through community service on Saturday.

The volunteers were sent to either Chenango Canal, Community Bikes, Community Garden, or Madison Lane. These organizations promote various missions, such as Chenango Canal, which focuses on nature and conservation. Community Bikes, located in Hamilton, “collects and reconditions donated bicycles and places them with those who would love to have a bike, but for whom buying one would be a hardship,” according to the Community Bikes Website. The event started with refreshments in the morning, and then the volunteers each received a t-shirt and a reusable water bottle before heading to their sights. 

Another recent event was dedicated to 9/11, described by the COVE instagram as a way to “Kick off the 20 Hours of Service for 20 years challenge!” On Sept. 20, the COVE opened an art contest in celebration of the anniversary, in which student artists can submit art proposals that exemplify the theme of service and outreach to COVE by Dec. 1 to be added to their lounge in Lathrop Hall. The ideas will be voted on, and the winner will be announced on Dec. 15. The winner’s canvas will be installed in May when celebrations conclude. 

The COVE remains extremely active as a significant organization on campus now. “We typically involve a quarter of Colgate students, or 700 people, on an annual basis, ” Wattles said. “We hope to encourage students to lead lives of engaged citizenship and encourage them to think about positive social change.” 

This ethos is evident in the myriad of service groups within the COVE. Colgate junior and co-leader of Colgate Buddies, a COVE facilitated organization, Jane Corcoran, speaks on the importance of her organization. 

“Colgate Buddies is the only disability advocate club on campus and strives to foster relationships between the Colgate community and the local disability homes in the community. Our service is through events in which we form these connections to break the stigma of disabilities,” Corcoran said.

Corcoran described the significance of the COVE to the student body. 

In addition to student groups, the center offers involvement to faculty and staff, including the high school seminar during which faculty members are invited to teach a three-class course to local high school students. 

According to Wattles, the COVE’s biggest achievements surround the overwhelming amount of students involved and the time they put into service. The 700 students contribute around 35-40,000 combined hours of service annually to over 80 community agencies.

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the COVE has found productive methods of community service. Providing necessary help to communities while also ensuring safety is difficult during a pandemic. Groups such as SAT Prep, engAGE, Ophelia’s Girls, DoRak, and many others have completed service within COVID guidelines for the past year. Ophelia’s Girls works with Madison students. On the COVE’s instagram highlights, they described how they worked around the guidelines: 

“We transitioned to virtual service and expanded our service from one to two days per week to accommodate the school’s new hybrid schedule. We also put together care packages for each girl at the end of the semester.” 

 Following the 20th anniversary, the COVE has goals for the future. 

“We are hoping to initiate a literacy tutoring program in local public schools in partnership with the Upstate Institute in the next year or two,” Wattles said.

In planning the anniversary events, Wattles wants to thank the staff, including Karli Caputo, the Administrative Assistant, Sarah Sparber, a Team Advisor, and Amy Jackowski, another Team Advisor, for their care, dedication, and hard work. 

Wattles was aided in planning the anniversary events by Karli Caputo, the Administrative Assistant, Sarah Sparber, a Team Advisor, and Amy Jackowski, another Team Advisor. Caputo described her role in planning the events 

“I do a majority of the planning on the backside of the event and day-of. I was responsible for gathering community partners, advertising volunteer opportunities, ordering items for the day-of and making sure the day runs smoothly with registration. I received help from our interns to place students in the different service locations based on what they were more interested in,” Caputo said.

Caputo also stated why she believes COVE is so important on campus.

‘I truly believe that community service plays a huge role in the student experience here at Colgate. Not only does the COVE allow students the opportunity to do community service, it also gives Colgate students the ability to learn about the community that they live in. I continue to feel honored to be a part of the COVE and all of the work that our students do,” Caputo said.

After 20 years of community service, the COVE continues to help the local community and introduce Colgate students to volunteerism. There are many celebratory events to come.