Cornell Cares: showing love and respect through service
By Deb Levine '84

More than thirty Cornell Clubs around the world participated in Cornell Cares this winter, gathering to do the greatest good through acts of service in their local communities. Deb Levine ’84, a member of the Einhorn Center Alumni Advisory Group, reflects on Cornell NorCal’s day volunteering with Dream Youth Clinic in Oakland, California.

Cornell Cares, which is held each winter and summer, is co-organized by Alumni Affairs and Development and the Einhorn Center.

On January 6th, 2024, I had the opportunity to represent the Einhorn Center for Community Engagement at a Cornell Cares Cornell NorCal alumni event. A dozen Cornell alumni and current students home to the Bay Area for winter break gathered with the youth and staff of Dream Youth Clinic to refresh and winterize their Garden of Dreams. Cornell NorCal provided coffee, juice and donuts to get us energized as Dr. Mays, the CEO of Dream, described the work of the clinic and the plan for the day.  We learned that the Garden of Dreams is an urban garden and outdoor clinic that was created during the pandemic in a vacant, trash-filled lot in Oakland, CA serving unstably housed youth, many of whom have experienced multiple adverse childhood experiences including family violence, food insecurity, sexual abuse, and sexual exploitation. It really is an oasis within an urban jungle.

We broke into small groups to weed the garden beds, prune the fruit trees, fix the irrigation (attached to a very cool rainwater catchment system), and plant winter crops – broccoli, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, rosemary, and believe it or not, asparagus. These plants will be used in youth cooking workshops in the spring held in the Dream kitchen. Many things were awesome about the day – and what stood out most for me was seeing the pure joy on the youth’s faces as they watched adults from their community show love and respect for their lives through service.