While many college students went back home or traveled to warmer climates for spring break, 18 SUNY-ESF student volunteers worked with A Tiny Home for Good on our two-family home on South Geddes Street.
Emily Cattarin, one of our volunteers, is a freshman SUNY-ESF studying Environmental Resources Engineering. Originally from Massachusetts, Emily is passionate about anything outdoors including hiking and running. She was the Head Donut Maker at a supermarket back home, where she made unique flavored donuts like chocolate strawberry, pumpkin, and apple cider. Check out our interview with her to learn more about our ESF Spring Break Retreat!
THG: How did you find out about A Tiny Home for Good and the ESF Spring Break Retreat?
Emily: One of my friends had done it last spring break, so he mentioned it to me. Then, Amelia Hoffman (Academic Success and Community Service Coordinator at SUNY- ESF), sent out an email about it right as I was trying to figure out what to do for spring break. I was looking into it and she showed me all sorts of pictures of things that they did last year and it looked really cool.
THG: What made you interested in doing this program?
Emily: I think what peaked my interest is just that I was totally clueless. I just got here in August. I’ve been able to adventure out a little, but I’ve never really gone past I-81. Amelia explained to me that I would have the chance to actually learn about homelessness and what it’s actually like in the City of Syracuse. I was just really curious and I like doing volunteer work. I was excited to learn about Syracuse because I am going to be here for four years.
THG: Do you have any other volunteering experience?
Emily: I taught CCD for three years and so I worked with children a lot. I’ve also spent time building trails – that’s actually my job this summer. So I volunteered for that twice and realized that I like doing manual labor and building things. It seemed like building houses was kind of like building log bridges.
THG: What did you learn from this experience?
Emily: So much…Obviously, we learned a lot about the situation over there- that there are people that are struggling. The main day that got me was when we cooked spaghetti and meatballs for 150 of the people at the Catholic Charities men’s shelter. Giving them a warm meal – the way I thought about homeless shelters I assumed that there’s a warm meal every night. But we were told that once a month they get a warm meal. So, we were giving them huge bowls of spaghetti and meatballs and bread and lemonade – and they were just so happy. That kind of showed me that those are the people we are working to help.
THG: Did this experience have any effect on your future goals or aspirations or how you view homelessness?
Emily: I think it definitely changed the way I see things. Initially, I thought to myself “I’ll just drop-out of school and do this” because it was so enjoyable. But, realistically, I can see myself working on projects like this wherever I end up. Also, it’s cool now because I have a connection to the other students who also did the project. Overall, it has definitely made me more aware of what’s going on outside of campus.
THG: Is there anything else you want to say about your experience?
Emily: It was incredible. I wish it never ended. I mean Andrew – it’s amazing how passionate he is. There was no point during the week when it seemed like he was going to stop working. One of the nights as we were leaving, while we working on the two family house, he asked all of us if there was anything we were going to need for tomorrow. I had peeled carpet off the floor that day because there was this sticky stuff that I had been scraping at, and I had been using this tiny bottle of Goo-Gone. I told Andrew that I needed more Goo-Gone. So, when I come in the next day, there’s an industrial-size metal canister of Goo-Gone that says “Emily!” on it and he said “there you go!” He was so excited to bring us things that we would need for the house because he knew it would make our jobs easier and we would enjoy it more.