PORTSMOUTH — Steph McAuliffe was happy to be applying a coat of green paint to an exterior door of the Gibbs House at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church Monday.
“We lucked out compared to the (students working in) the garden,” said the freshman at Roger Williams University, which sent students to the church all day as part of the school’s 9th Annual Community Connections Day.
RWU student Polina Boily, however, seemed even more pleased to be making bread inside the parish hall’s handsome kitchen.
“We’re so thankful. It was cold outside,” she said.
About 1,200 RWU students, faculty and staff members fanned out Monday to assist nearly 50 local nonprofits on projects from cleaning parks to doing art projects with developmentally disabled adults. The project reflects the university’s commitment to service while continuing the orientation process for new students.
Students volunteered at 20 East Bay organizations, including St. Mary’s and The Portsmouth Multi-Purpose Senior Center in Portsmouth.
About 50 students were at St. Mary’s working in the church’s community garden, painting the exterior of the Gibbs House and baking bread inside the parish house. Another 11 students helped out with landscaping, painting and harvesting at the senior center.
“This is the first year we’ve had them,” said Harry Gustafson, junior warden at St. Mary’s. “We found out about them because during the academic year, we have a group of architecture students who are going to be doing a coursework study on the old parish house to see how we can re-purpose it.”
St. Mary’s kitchen was bustling with activity as students kneaded loaves of honey-wheat sunflower bread.
The parish normally collects food for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Newport. On Monday, however, 38 loaves of bread were baked for Bristol Good Neighbors, a food pantry in downtown Bristol, according to Kathy Micken, an RWU marketing teacher who was leading the students in the kitchen.
“Each student will also have a tiny little loaf to take home,” she said, adding that 10 focaccia loaves were baked to help feed the volunteers working at St. Mary’s Monday.
“This is a wonderful kitchen, as you can see. What’s nice is that this is a certified commercial kitchen, which is important because the pantry couldn’t take donations otherwise,” said Ms. Micken.
Mr. Gustafson said he was impressed with the work being done at the church Monday and was grateful for all the help from RWU.
“It’s great to see the kids doing stuff,” he said.