The John J. Byrne Community Center and about 60 households in Uniondale and Hempstead have freshened yards to be thankful for this week.
Around 500 Hofstra University students fanned out in clusters on Saturday to rake and bag the colorful mantle of leaves covering the residents’ lawns. Half of the students worked from 9-11:30 a.m., and half from noon to 2:30 p.m.
They were part of Hofstra’s yearly Shake-A-Rake program, now in its 14th year.
“We like to help senior citizens and people who can’t rake their yards themselves,” said Anita Ellis, the program organizer and director of Commuting Student Services and Community Outreach at Hofstra.
Plainly, the volunteers who carry out the program’s mission enjoyed helping.
“I asked some of these kids, are you doing this for community service hours?” said Rayhan Ahmed, 22, a computer science major who was leading the group at the John J. Byrne Community Center, “and they all said, no, we’re just helping out.”
The 20-plus members of Ahmed’s crew made short work of the leaves in the front yard of the community center, and then waded into the rustling jumble covering the center’s ample backyard.
“The reason that I am doing this,” said Noemie Desruisseaux, 19, a criminology major, “is because my community has given me a lot, and I want to give back to the community. ”
“I have loved giving back in the past with organizations like Habitat for Humanity,” said Caitlin Brophy, 22, earning her master’s degree in family and consumer science. “I wanted to find time now, in graduate school, to work with a new environment and get to know other communities while still giving back in the ways that I love.”
“Shake-A-Rake does help with my community service requirements,” said Maximillien A. Raymond, 20, earning bachelor degrees in philosophy and in rhetoric and public advocacy. But the credits aren’t the real motivation behind his picking up a rake for the second time. “Doing this event last year was a time where I got to work as a team with others, socialize, and help whoever is in need,” he said.
The beneficiaries of the program expressed enthusiastic gratitude, like Mary-Rose Waldron, standing in the yard of the home on Bedford Avenue that she has occupied for 55 years.
“Thank God the students came! There are seven trees in my yard,” Waldron said. “Every year it becomes more important to me as I get older and have less energy and stamina. You can see how many bags they packed” — eleven 40-gallon biodegradable bags.
In Hempstead, Mrs. Geraldine Dudley had summoned helpers to her Kennedy Avenue home.
“They did a great job,” said Dudley’s daughter, Linda Gonzalez. “The students are all nice.”
“There were 12 of them,” added Gonzalez’s husband, Edwin. “One of the young girls told me she was on the track team. She was in nursing. You get the tennis team, you get the golf team. And Hofstra is in Uniondale, so they want to give back to their community.”
The variety of students that participate was evident among the six 19-year-olds who cleared the leaves at Martha Rhodes’ home on Southern Parkway in Uniondale.
Devan Saez is a music performance major. Ralph Barba is immersed in marketing, Rosalie Marfoglio in fine arts. Emma Ferland and Mirsela Redzematovic are biology majors, while Rylie Olsen’s bachelor degree will be in labor studies.
They heard about Shake-A-Rake through an email blast from Ellis.
“The school gave us the rakes, the bags, and the gloves,” said Ferland. “They supply transportation, but it was simpler for us to come in cars.”
Behind them, a few leaves drifted quietly onto the sweep of green grass they had just raked.