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SUNY Potsdam students rake leaves around village


POTSDAM — While many students likely spent Sunday preparing for classes on Monday or catching up on sleep after a weekend of Halloween parties, SUNY Potsdam athletes were outside raking leaves for most of the day.

For the seventh year in a row, about 280 students representing every athletic team raked 18 yards belonging to senior citizens or people with special needs or disabilities.

“It feels good to give back to the community,” said Stephanie A. Vlad, a junior who plays on the women’s varsity volleyball team.

Casey L. Chase, a sophomore on the varsity volleyball team, said that the people who call in to have their yards raked can’t get the job done on their own.

“We got a sheet of paper with different teams that are supposed to go to certain houses,” she said. “Every team is supposed to do two houses.”

Lauren E. Bruce has been coaching women’s lacrosse at SUNY Potsdam for 10 years and organizes the school’s leaf-raking day each year with the help of the Athletic Leadership Council.

She said that since leaf-raking day is mandatory for all the athletes and there are only 70 rakes, the students have to do the raking in shifts between 9:30 and 3:30.

She said this year, fewer people signed up to have their yards raked, but students also raked both Garfield and Bayside cemeteries in Potsdam.

“We’ve gotten gift cards through SUNYAC (the State University of New York Athletic Conference), so a lot of the supplies were bought at Lowe’s over the years,” she said. “It’s like $100 each year, so we’ve just accumulated a lot of rakes.”

Ms. Bruce said the Potsdam Chamber of Commerce loaned some rakes and the school also pitches in to replace any equipment that breaks.

Leaf-raking day was initiated by SUNYAC and was supposed to be for all SUNY schools to participate in on the same day, according to Ms. Bruce.

“That got pretty difficult to do,” Ms. Bruce said.

It was changed so that schools would participate all in the same week, but even that was hard to manage because, for some universities, it was difficult to get the supplies.

“So, it’s not a SUNYAC-wide event anymore, but we committed to it because it just works for our community,” Ms. Bruce said. “We get many thank-you notes. Most of the time they come out with cookies and cider and hang out with the athletes.”

One repeat customer the students have is Hyman Baker on Leroy Street. He and his wife Ceile are from New York City, but moved to Potsdam a few years ago.

He said it’s “fantastic” that the students come out and rake his yard each year and do a great job.

“Being from New York City, raking leaves isn’t really my thing,” he said. “It’s really nice when I don’t have to deal with anything rural.”

Mr. Baker said that previously, he had to pay for people to rake his yard.

“They support us, so we want to support them,” Aliza M. Fields, a junior on the volleyball team, said. “Maybe not these specific people, but the community does come to our games.”

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