About 30 John F. Kennedy School of Government (KSG) staff traded in computers for trowels, and pens for work gloves last Friday (May 17) to help beautify Cambridge City Hall and other sites as part of what organizers intend to make an annual day of service to the community.
“We’re so concentrated on party political activity that we sometimes don’t focus on community service. This is to remind ourselves that tangible, hands-on work needs to be done,” said Karin Kane, forum assistant in the Institute of Politics’ (IOP) Forum office. “It’s a different means to the same end.”
The second annual service day was held in conjunction with City Year, an organization that helps coordinate community service efforts from a variety of groups. About a half dozen City Year staff directed the volunteer workers from the Institute of Politics and the Center for Business and Government at beautification projects around the city.
Amy Christofer, conference coordinator for the Center for Business and Government, said the event not only contributes to the community, but also gives staff from two KSG centers a chance to mingle and work together, something that happens rarely even though they work “next door” all year long.
“It’s good to get the two centers working together outside the school,” Christofer said.
The service day was suggested by IOP Director David Pryor and Director of the Center for Business and Government Ira Jackson, Kane said. The two centers plan on making it an annual event, Kane said, varying the project from year to year. Last year, the group helped with renovations to a Cambridge church.
Jon Randall, of City Year’s Care Force Department, said service days like this are very important for a variety of projects around the city. Volunteer labor, he said, fills in on jobs that busy city workers can’t get to. Beautification projects are important, he said, because people want their community to be a nice place to live.
People coming in and out of Cambridge City Hall were surprised to find out who was doing the work, with at least one person guessing they were from a state correctional facility. Randall said it was appropriate that people who teach future leaders worked on City Hall.
“I think it’s fitting that the Kennedy School of Government is doing service at Cambridge City Hall,” Randall said. “People are surprised and delighted that it’s Harvard here doing this.”
The Kennedy School – City Year crew broke into three smaller groups for the morning, putting in plantings in Cambridge’s Sullivan Square and painting flagpoles for Memorial Day. In the afternoon, they came back together on Cambridge City Hall’s front lawn, taking out tulips whose blooms had expired and putting in red geraniums.
Clarinda Spinelli, landscaping projects administrator for the Cambridge Department of Public Works, Parks and Urban Forestry, said the city’s public works crews are very busy at this time of year, keeping up parks and maintaining heavily used playing fields. Flower plantings, she said, are low on the priority list.
“Flowers are the first thing people notice, but they’re just the icing on the cake,” Spinelli said. “It’s incredibly valuable to us. The amount of work this group accomplished today was extraordinary.”