Make a Difference Day returns for campus spring cleaning

Make a Difference Day returns for campus spring cleaning

04/15/2024 

The sun is out, birds are singing and plants and animals are becoming active again after laying dormant for months.  

Among the things coming back to life this spring is SUNY Cortland’s Make a Difference Day campus cleanup. 

The long-dormant event, full of hard work and good vibes, is being revived after more than a decade away. Happening on Arbor Day, it’s all about students, staff and faculty coming together to make the school grounds beautiful. 

Make a Difference Day takes place from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Friday, April 26, followed by the university’s annual Arbor Day tree planting at 11 a.m. Student, staff and faculty volunteers who sign up should arrive at Moffett Center by 8:30 a.m. Tools and gloves will be provided, as will transportation to and from worksites. 

Coffee, donuts and T-shirts will be provided to volunteers who register with Facilities Operations and Services’ Jamie Rounds through email by Monday, April 22. 

“I’m thrilled that this Arbor Day celebration is returning to campus,” SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum said. “The event provides a wonderful opportunity to spruce up campus as the semester winds down, but more importantly it reaffirms our campus commitment to sustainability and the well-being of our natural environment. Everyone has the ability to make a difference on Arbor Day, and this event is proof.” 

The Arbor Day cleanup is scheduled five days after The Big Event, SUNY Cortland’s student-run community cleanup. The two events are separate, with similar, but different goals.  

The Big Event, set for April 21, is a community-wide volunteer effort in which hundreds of students spread out to worksites throughout Cortland. Make a Difference Day, on April 26, is a volunteer spring cleaning for the SUNY Cortland campus.  

Dan Dryja, director of Facilities Operations and Services, estimated that it has been more than a decade since members of the SUNY Cortland Community participated in Make a Difference Day. The idea began last year while he and others were thinking of ways to make Arbor Day a bigger event for the university.  

“Then it hit me, ‘Hey, Make a Difference Day? It’s getting close to Commencement, and this is a great opportunity and used to be really well attended.’” 

Planned project spots include the Lynne Parks ’68 SUNY Cortland Alumni House, SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex, planters located around campus and the Student Life Center. The number of work sites will depend on the number of volunteers who sign up. 

Individuals signing up will need to list: 

  • Their name 
  • Whether they’re a student, staff or faculty member 
  • Their major or department
  • Any restrictions that may affect work assignments 

    Departments, athletic teams and clubs will need: 

    • Their group or team name 
    • Names of participants and if they’re students, staff or faculty 
    • Names of volunteers who have restrictions that may affect work assignments 

    Dryja noted that it was always a diverse group of staff, faculty and students who joined together to help.  

    “We had certain people that would come out and always want to work around places like Park Center, edging trees or pruning or planting annuals, because it was their building and they took pride in it and wanted to help out,” he said. “Or they would have particular grounds workers that they enjoyed working with, so they would always want to get paired up with them. It was just a good time.” 

    This year’s Arbor Day tree planting will have Bitterbaum and members of the Tree Advisory Committee establish a bald cypress near the Casey Tower parking lot, along with two white oaks. Dryja noted dead trees had previously been removed in that area. 

    The bald cypress is a specimen tree, meaning it will become a scenic focal point as it grows along with the university. 

    “(The area) is a big open lawn now that’s very visible,” Dryja said. “We thought a nice specimen tree in that area would be wonderful.”


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