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Most local communities depend on volunteers to donate their time and energy to improve the quality of life. To honor the importance and selflessness of volunteers this Friday, about 200 Fox Lane High School juniors will be helping out at about 20 locations, including local schools, food pantries and neighborhood help centers as part of the school’s Community Volunteer Day.
The day, which is being introduced this year, will be a fixture on the school calendar going forward.
Locations of Fox Lane High School Student Volunteers
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It was inspired by the Suzanne Grant Foundation, a nonprofit organization created by David Grant to honor his late wife, who served six years on the Bedford Board of Education and was a passionate community volunteer. Suzanne Grant, co-owner of PORCH Home + Gifts in Mount Kisco, died in 2019 at 56 years old.
“This was just an idea six months ago and it became grander than what we had originally thought,” David Grant said. “We wanted a handful of local organizations to be involved and are pleased that the entire town and school district are participating.”
Grant initially reached out to Mount Kisco parent Kristina Nye Weise who immediately agreed to help.
“This program is such a perfect reflection of who Suzanne Grant was,” said Weise, whose child is currently a Fox Lane High School freshman while her two older children are graduates of the school. “Suzanne was one of the first people I met when I moved to Mount Kisco and she modeled the volunteer behavior I feel is so valuable to the community.”
When Weise reached out to local organizations, she said the response was overwhelmingly positive.
“When you offer people three hours of work by volunteers, you’d be surprised how quickly they say ‘yes,’” she said. “It’s important to share information about community groups with students so their volunteering will go beyond a one-day event and continue year-round.”
Fox Lane Principal Dr. Brett Miller said the school fully supports having a dedicated day every year for juniors to volunteer.
“We are really excited that this is happening,” Miller said. “We will have 20 of our teachers work side by side with the students. It will truly be a team effort. This strengthens the learning experience not only here at school but in students’ own lives in maintaining a connection to their community.”
Fox Lane Dean of Student Activities and math teacher Kristy Emery started the ball rolling after meeting Grant and Weise last December. By last month, she had contacted each high school junior, offering them different choices of where they wanted to volunteer.
“Every student ended up in groups that were among their top choices,” Emery said. There will be eight to 12 students in each group that will assist nearly 20 organizations.
Among the organizations that will be helped are the Boy & Girls Club of Northern Westchester, the Westchester Local Food Project at the Ann Manzi Center, Marsh and Westmoreland sanctuaries, the Mount Kisco Arts Council, 914 Cares and the district’s elementary schools.
According to Weise, many students asked to help out at their former elementary school to either help plant a garden or build an outdoor reading space. Others will face-paint preschoolers, sort through clothing donated for a clothing drive or help clean trails at local sanctuaries.
Nine juniors will be ripping out invasive plants at Westmoreland Sanctuary.
“We want to students to know that clearing invasive species is not busy work, but work that is impactful on the environment,” said Steve Ricker, director of conservation and wildlife management at Westmoreland Sanctuary. “We get into how invasive species aren’t pollinators which is needed and talk about the monoculture of lawns as compared to the biodiversity of native plants.”
Ricker said that many former students who previously volunteered have returned to become interns and some were later hired by the sanctuary.
The day will start at the school’s athletic field with a breakfast for all student volunteers. They will then be bused to volunteer locations and work for three hours before returning to the school for lunch.
“Never underestimate the power of a small group of people who are committed to exposing young people to volunteerism,” Grant said. “It’s a big deal to me and was to Suzanne. Perhaps this exposure will lead to one being a future board or another town council member. A new generation of volunteers, that’s the legacy, that’s what this is about.”
Abby is a local journalist who has reported on breaking news for more than 20 years. She currently covers community issues in The Examiner as a full-time reporter and has written for the paper since its inception in 2007. Read more from Abby’s editor-author bio here. Read Abbys’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/ab-lub2019/