An estimated 100,000 people attended Rutgers Day 2016, an official celebration of the university's 250th anniversary.
AUTHOR: Pamela MacKenzie, @pammackenziemc MyCentralJersey.com
NEW BRUNSWICK - Rutgers marked its 250th anniversary on Saturday with huge celebrations on all of the campuses, and an estimated 100,000 individuals, many as couples or families, took advantage of the day to see what the various schools at Rutgers offer, from sports to music to food science to agriculture, the arts, and more. Even if you limit yourself to one campus, whether it is one of the ones in New Brunswick/Piscataway, or Newark or Camden, it is impossible to take it all in during just one day.
But this year's Rutgers Day on Saturday was particularly expansive.
On the Cook Campus in New Brunswick, the broad focus was on science, ranging from horticulture to animal science, food science and even firefighting. Rutgers Gardens had a very large plant sale. There was an inflatable tunnel that mimicked the root system of a tree. The annual dog show for the Seeing Eye attracted dog lovers from around the state.The Rutgers Habitat for Humanity club was displaying a barrier-free garage that members had built for the Johnson family of Plainfield. And taking all this activity in stride were families pushing strollers, leading dogs on leashes and taking photos with smartphones.
Building a better world
Eduardo Gutierrez, special projects manager for Habitat for Humanity at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, explained that last week, the club had built a no-barriers garage for the Johnson family of Plainfield, a family working with Habitat to build a home so their wheelchair-bound son can live with them. The club chose a garage so they could build it on campus, then disassemble it in sections and move it to Plainfield. The club works on 12 to 14 builds per semester, but those all are off campus. Gutierrez said they got approval to build the garage on a parking lot on the Douglass Campus so that other students could see what they are doing.
"What's so great is the people," said Gutierrez. "I transferred here from Sussex Community College two years ago, and since then, 90 percent of the friends I've made have been through Habitat for Humanity. It's been a really big part of my experience."
Alan Aldana, the building manager, said he organizes all the Habitat teams of about 12 students who go to the off-campus building sites, but for the garage build, they club needed about 18 students. They expected the project to take three days, but it rained one day, so they extended their work time for two days and got the job completed. They had a little help from the main Habitat chapter, but most of the work was done by the student volunteers.
Aldana had started with Habitat as a senior in high school and now is a junior at Rutgers. Next year, in addition to working on builds, he'll play an administrative role, similar to Gutierrez. He said they usually build in Plainfield, but they've also built in Highland Park and Perth Amboy.
During the summer, Gutierez said, the students raise money for Habitat by working for a concessionaire at music festivals, selling beer.
"It's pretty good; we work a few hours, and we make a small percentage on every beer we sell, plus tips. We make about $1,000 per concert," Gutierrez said."
The Rutgers Habitat club is currently raising $50,000 for its next building project.
"Yes, the families who get the houses pay back the cost of the house, but that's over 30 years," Gutierrez said. "The money we raise allows us to build the next house right away so we don't have to wait 30 years to get more money."
The Rutgers Habitat for Humanity Campus Chapter is currently raising funds for Habitat Barrier Free. To donate toward their $50,000 effort, please visit: https://www.habitatgpmc.org/dollar-for-dollar