A History of Community Service Day

This year's Community Service Day will be held on October 13. Students, faculty, staff, and trustees will work with the American Red Cross to give blood, assemble Hope and Comfort Kits for families displaced by fire, the recent hurricanes, or other disasters, and prepare holiday cards for veterans. This all-hands-on-deck day will involve the entire campus, showing Choate's commitment to community-wide service.

Choate's day of service has gone by several names over the years: Project Day, Community Day, and most recently, Community Service Day. The title may have changed, but the intention remains clear: as laid out in the 2013 Strategic Plan, to "provide leadership and character development opportunities, such as community-wide service initiatives, that establish an enduring commitment to the greater good."

Like its name, the scope of Community Service Day has evolved since its beginning. The Kindly Club, started by Janet Ruutz-Rees, mother of Rosemary Hall Headmistress Caroline Ruutz-Rees, dates back to 1912. Students sold handmade items at an annual fair, donating the proceeds to war orphans, scholarships, and the American Red Cross.

Project Day started on November 27, 1950 as a cleanup effort after a storm tore through campus, downing trees and causing floods. Then-Headmaster Seymour St. John organized all the boys to clean up the after the storm, and every following fall and spring, boys raked leaves and tidied up the school.

Project Day continued to manifest as community cleanup for years, and in 1985, Principal and Head Charles Dey had students rake Wallingford Parks, the yards of elderly community members, and around the Library and Historical Society. From 1985 to 1996, the newly titled Community Day was organized by faculty. For many years, there was no single day set aside for acts of charity. Rather, students were encouraged to participate in charitable events throughout the year.

When the School held Service Day again in 2013, students, faculty, staff and trustees partnered with Kids Against Hunger—an international humanitarian food-aid organization—to assemble 150,000 meals for hungry children and families. The following year, Choate continued to promote food aid, this time partnering with Harvest Pack to assemble 158,000 meals for hungry individuals. The School returns to its beginning in 2017 as we prepare to work with the American Red Cross.