Jackie Cannon ‘20
Chief News Editor
At 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 14, over 1,100 volunteers gathered at Worcester City Hall to participate in the 6th annual Working for Worcester Build Day. At a diverse array of sites across the city, volunteers participated in projects such as building playgrounds, cleaning outdoor spaces, and updating classrooms and community spaces.
Working for Worcester is led entirely by a dedicated group of Holy Cross students, but attracts volunteers of all ages from the city and from every Worcester college. According to the Worcester Telegram, the organization reached a record high of $150,000 in fundraising this year.
Colleen Naber ‘18, who served as the executive director of Working for Worcester for the 2017-18 school year, explained that her role was to oversee the entire project, which included securing funding, choosing sites, and making all major decisions, along with other team members.
This year, there were 23 sites across the city. At some sites, like Bancroft Tower and Blackstone Gateway Park, volunteers cleaned up outdoor spaces and parks, while others, such as Worcester Arts Magnet and Lincoln Street School, included building or refurbishing playgrounds. Other projects at local schools included painting murals, building a STEAM room, building a gaga ball pit, and installing a low elements ropes course.
Working for Worcester was first founded in 2012 by Jeff Reppucci ‘14 and Derek Kump ‘14, who were juniors at Holy Cross at the time. According to the organization’s website, the pair realized the immense need for improved recreational spaces in Worcester. “Reppucci and Kump would launch an organization dedicated to mobilizing college students to improve recreation infrastructure and opportunities in neighborhoods across the city,” says the website.
In under two months leading up to the first build day, a small group of students were able to raise over $60,000 from corporate sponsors, and recruit over 500 volunteers that would go to work at 12 different sites.
To date, Working for Worcester has now invested over one million dollars back into the community and over 100 community projects. As stated on the website, “beyond new recreation infrastructure, the project has fundamentally changed the way that local citizens, government, and businesses connect with and view college student citizenship, catalyzing more opportunities for students to engage with previously unexplored neighborhoods and see Worcester as a home, rather than as a mere area code.”
Before she had even started at Holy Cross, Naber knew she wanted to be a part of the organization after seeing a news segment featuring Working for Worcester and its two founders. “I fell in love with the project and knew I needed to get involved,” said Naber.
When asked why Working for Worcester is a valuable experience, Naber elaborated, “I think it is important for college students to know that they have the power to make a meaningful difference in the community. I know that this project has changed lives: our playgrounds give children who otherwise may not have a safe place to play and learn a place to do so, our Buddy Benches create new friends on the playground and promote inclusion, [and] our STEAM labs may just introduce students to Science and help them develop a love for it.”
To express the impact of the organization on the community, Naber shared a story from her experience, during which “[a] family with three children in the backseat who drove by as we were constructing a playground at Rice Square last year rolled down the window to scream ‘Thank You!’”
Reflecting on her four years with Working for Worcester, Naber explained her favorite part has been the incredible people she’s met. She went on to say, “This project has given me meaning in purpose over the past year and has taught me invaluable lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I know that as I take this next step into the real world, volunteerism will be something that I prioritize for the rest of my life.”
As stated on the organization’s website, “Working for Worcester’s story goes to show that when seemingly unrelated groups in a community commit to a common mission and share resources, even a small group of wide-eyed college kids can spark a movement that affects visible, tangible change across an entire city.”