In the dozen years since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the National Day of Service and Remembrance has been organized to honor the memories of the nearly 3,000 victims lost on that day.
Westchester County and The Volunteer Center of United Way are doing even more. On Tuesday at Pace University in Pleasantville, County Executive Rob Astorino helped kick off a weeklong joint effort with the United Way to encourage county residents to participate in one of the more than 25 service events and activities in Westchester.
The “9/11: Serve & Remember” initiative, which is spread over nine days, will culminate on the evening of Sept. 11 at Kensico Dam Plaza in Valhalla with the annual ceremony at the county’s memorial The Rising. During the final day of the effort, visitors can donate new and gently used soccer and baseball equipment that will be used by U.S. troops abroad through the Westchester-based nonprofit Let’s Play It Forward, Inc.
Individuals, students, families and members of the business community are encouraged to participate throughout the week.
“The families who lost loves ones that day didn’t just want us to reflect each year in sorrow,” said Alisa Kesten, executive director of The Volunteer Center. “They wanted us to do something positive to honor the memory of those we lost.”
Among the service projects the public can volunteer for are veteran and military outreach, helping at a soup kitchen, blood drives and food collections and removing vines from trees at FDR State Park in Yorktown.
Kesten said Serve & Remember has been extended to increase participation. If confined to one day, family, school and work obligations would exclude many residents who might otherwise want to serve, she said.
Astorino said the Serve & Remember week will remind people that there are hundreds of nonprofit organizations promoting a wide range of causes throughout the county that could use volunteers all year long. It will also help to rekindle the spirit of unity and compassion that swept over the nation in the weeks and months following the terrorist attacks, he said.
“You don’t have to wait, obviously, until September of each year to become a volunteer,” Astorino said. “You don’t have to wait for a formal list of activities. There are agencies every day that can use your help. There are people, people that you know, people that are strangers who every day can benefit from a kind heart.”
The start of the effort was appropriately announced at Pace’s Kessel Student Center. Pace has been one of the leaders among colleges and universities in getting its students to participate in community service, said Provost Eday Sukhatme. Since 2006, the university has been named to the President of the United States’ honor roll to recognize organizations that promote service, he said.
For the past 11 years, Pace has required its undergraduate students to take a civic participation and public administration course, which introduces them to service events in the area.
“We have been doing this a long time because not only do the students benefit the community but the learning they acquire in the community benefits them,” Uday said. “So it’s a two-way street and we believe in it.”
During his visit to the student center, Astorino sat down with several students to write a letter to soldiers stationed abroad, one of the service projects the school has organized.
Senior Hasin Ahmed, student outreach coordinator at Pace’s Center for Community Action and Research, said he’s been doing service work since high school. His involvement through internships with nonprofits organizations has been personally fulfilling and has exposed him to the possibility of different careers.
“I’ve had six internships with six different nonprofits and that wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t volunteer in the first place,” Ahmed said.
For a full list of activities to volunteer for and to register, visit www.westchestergov.com. or www.volunteer-center.org/service2013.