On the weekend of September 11 and 12, Wheaton had its annual service weekend projects under the title “Wheaton Cares.” It was a success with 8 projects and approximately 100 student and alumni participants. The Wheaton Cares program was initiated after 2009, when President Obama declared that the day of September 11 be a National day of Service and Remembrance.
Associate Dean for Service, Spirituality and Social Responsibility (SSSR) Vereene Parnell said, “Most of the time it’s been done as part of President Obama’s declaration of September 11 as a national day of service and remembrance… for us that means a focus on building communities and learning from the diversity within our communities.”
This year Wheaton partnered with local groups in Norton, Easton, Attleboro, Plainsville and Boston. Projects included a Reservoir Clean up, helping out at the Food Bank and partnering with a women and children domestic violence shelter to build a sandbox for its occupants.
Said Parnell, “What happened after 9/11 was that many people reached out to learn more about their neighbors that they had before. What we’re trying to do is to get to know our partners and neighbors to build a stronger community.”
The Reservoir clean up group consisting of the Wheaton swim team not only cleaned the reservoir bank, but the surrounding area as well. Said Parnell, “Norton people came up and thanked them or offered to carry on their work after the weekend. Those were great little moments, that slowly build a better relationship between us and the people of Norton.”
Parnell hoped that people would take away the idea of partnership from these projects. “When we work together, we make our community stronger for all of us. It’s the idea of partnership rather than a simple charity idea. Together, we can come up with a better solution. These are one time projects but they lay the groundwork for things like our tutoring programs in the schools which have long term effects.”
In terms of future goals for this program, Parnell said, “I would like to see more faculty and staff involved and we are working on that with some of the staff. Several First Year Seminars are involved also in projects coming up later on in the semester. I want to continue to build bonds across the Wheaton bubble… this is a chance for us to get to know the best of each other.”