Sam Folby (left), an instructional support specialist in the Department of Psychology, assists church employee Ed Dudek in replacing a headstone at the Holy Mother of the Rosary Cathedral Cemetery.
President Satish K. Tripathi (center in black slacks and white T-shirt) greets UB volunteers in Holy Mother of the Rosary Cemetery.
Published August 16, 2018
UB faculty and staff ventured throughout the Buffalo area on Wednesday to give back to the community as part of the 26th annual United Way Day of Caring.
The Day of Caring is the largest community service event in Western New York and provides crucial help for local organizations across the region.
“We always try to work with our community,” said President Satish Tripathi, who joined UB volunteers at Holy Mother of the Rosary Cathedral Cemetery in Cheektowaga. “We can’t be a great university unless we have a great neighborhood. If something is important to the community in some way, we should help. We should be a part of the solution, whether it’s through our dental clinic, our students working with K-12 students in the city, or coming out and helping like today.”
More than 100 volunteers from UB’s three campuses joined thousands of volunteers throughout Buffalo to help organizations and community projects throughout the area. One of the organizations UB volunteers worked with was the Weinberg Campus, a senior living community on North Forest Road in the backyard of UB’s North Campus. Volunteers visited with the elderly, assisted with carnival games and completed tasks for which the organization needed extra help.
This year, a majority of UB volunteers worked at a pair of cemeteries — Concordia Cemetery in Buffalo and the Holy Mother of the Rosary Cemetery, both of which were in dire need of groundskeeping.
At the Holy Mother of the Rosary Cemetery, volunteers cleaned grave markers and helped look for missing headstones. The records for headstones erected before 1925 were lost in a fire and several had sunk below the ground’s surface due to the freeze-and-thaw cycle of Buffalo winters.
By the end of the morning, a headstone was finally located, unearthed and cleaned up by UB volunteers. Finding one headstone was significant because now volunteers can find the rest of the headstones in that row.
Despite the hard work, faculty and staff at the cemetery said they enjoyed every second of the opportunity.
Mary Odrzywolski (left, green hat) director of the Office of Study Abroad Programs, helps move some topsoil at Concordia Cemetery.
Isabel Ortiz, who retired from the former Sudent Response Center, and Fred Brown, a student in the Student Affairs concentration of the Higher Education Administration EdM program, do some raking at Concordia Cemetery.
“It feels really great to be out here. I haven’t volunteered much in my life so far, and I’ve wanted to get involved, so when I saw the email for the Day of Caring I was really excited,” said Michelle Bowen, marketing coordinator for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “I think it’s really important that there are people who volunteer for things like this, especially for the places that really need it.
“The fact that this opportunity was available to us is really awesome and it opens my eyes to the kind of work that the community can do,” Bowen said.
Added Anne Continetti, coordinator of strategic programs for the College of Arts and Sciences: “It’s been really exciting and I’ve waited to do this for weeks now. It’s really cool to come together with people you don’t get to see often.
“Giving back to something like this is a show of respect,” Continetti said. “You don’t know if there’s family that comes back [to each grave], so this may be the first time anyone has paid attention to some of these graves in almost a hundred years. It’s a beautiful day and it’s been great to come together as a community.”
Volunteers like Andrea Wiepert, chief of staff to the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, also said they enjoyed the opportunity to meet and talk with other UB employees while working for a good cause.
“I’ve done things with the United Way over the years but not this particular event,” Wiepert said. “Having the opportunity to give back to the community in any small way is important because places like this don’t have the manpower to do what we’re doing. There’s a fair amount of satisfaction in making the gravestones legible again, and it’s really cool to reveal what’s written on a headstone and pay respect to someone,” she said.
“It’s also awesome to meet new people in the process. We all work together in this big university, but we don’t necessarily know each other.”
Debra Lasek, a parishioner of Holy Mother of the Rosary Cathedral, said the work UB volunteers put in at the site meant the world to her and the Polish community. The parish is affiliated with the Polish National Catholic Church.
“These people deserve for their stones to be corrected and to be standing tall because if it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t be here,” she said. “We couldn’t do this without the community, and I can’t even express my gratitude in words. I’m thrilled that everyone is here to honor the founding fathers and mothers of our parish.”
It was an honor to give my time to the United Way.
Dale R Gordon