Commemorating a Legacy: Celebrate Service…Celebrate Yates Marks 25 Years of Community Impact

Keuka College students were among the nearly 200 volunteers who joined together to assist Yates County nonprofits during a day of service on Sunday, April 21.

Monday, April 22, 2024

Sporting matching T-shirts and work gloves, volunteers from around Yates County gathered on the Keuka College campus Sunday to launch a day filled with social responsibility and excitement. Nearly 200 volunteers, from ages 2 to 92, joined together to mark the 25th anniversary of Celebrate Service… Celebrate Yates (CSCY).

Organized by Keuka College and the Yates County Chamber of Commerce, the community service initiative is a day of volunteering to help non-profit organizations, agencies, and citizens throughout Yates County. Participants fanned out across 17 sites for everything from painting to raking to planting flowers.

“We are grateful for this 25-year partnership with Celebrate Service… Celebrate Yates and the Yates County Chamber of Commerce,” College President Amy Storey told volunteers during a brief kickoff ceremony on the Keuka College campus Sunday. “Thank you for being here today and for your service to this important event.” 

Three of the College’s international students — Aiqa Ali, a first-year writing and communications art major from Pakistan, Haykaz Sargsyan, a first-year marketing major from Armenia, and Kendal Gutierrez, a first-year educational studies major from Costa Rica — were excited to pitch in and help their adopted community.

“I like performing community service at home, and this was a way for me to learn more about the area and help it grow,” said Kendal. “I’ve missed giving back in this way.”

Caton Wilbert, a member of Keuka Collefge's Field Hockey team, also wanted to give back.

“I thought it was a nice way to help the community that is my home away from home,” she said. 

That kind of engagement is what CSCY is all about, said Jessica Bacher, president and CEO of the Yates County Chamber of Commerce. She highlighted the role of sponsors and volunteers.

“Their commitment to our community is truly inspiring,” said Jessica. “We thank them for making a difference and for being the driving force behind a day filled with service, compassion, and celebration.”    

That’s what makes CSCY so special to Kathy Waye, Keuka College’s director of the Field Period® program and community relations, who has participated in the event since its inception. 

“CSCY brings people together and fosters a sense of unity and belonging within the community,” said Kathy. “It allows individuals from different backgrounds to come together, share their experiences, and connect over a shared commitment to service. It has been an excellent way to have fun, meet new people, and make a difference!

Keith Prather, president of the Friends of the Outlet, says his group is fortunate to have CSCY volunteers help make the Keuka Outlet Trail one of the most beautiful outdoor tourist attractions in Yates County. The trail is used year-round by walkers, hikers, runners, bikers, horseback riders, fishermen, and bird watchers alike. 

“As people volunteer to help clean the Keuka Outlet Trail, we hope it gives them a stronger connection with nature and the great outdoors. Friends of the Outlet is so grateful that year after year, volunteers take part in this special community event,” said Keith.

Keuka College alumnae Kathy Gernold ’84, owner of Penn Yan-based KG Graphics, and Francesca Daniele ’23, an employee of Stork Insurance, also in Penn Yan, agreed that it feels good to give back to their communities in such a meaningful way.

“After graduation, I actually moved here from Pennsylvania because I love this area so much," said Francesca. “I wanted to do something to give back to the College and community, which have given me so much.”

Envisioned in 1997 by Keuka College student Tracy Swem Morgan ’98, with the Yates County Chamber of Commerce, as a way to demonstrate a literal joining of hands across Yates County, CSCY fosters stronger relationships between members of the Keuka College community and its neighbors.