by David Morrill
Making a difference in the community doesn't always involve pro bono legal work. Sometimes it means putting down the books, putting on clothing that can get dirty, and wielding everything from paint brushes and power tools to rakes and shovels.
Just like William & Mary law students did on a Day of Caring.
Held on Saturday, March 24, the Day of Caring gave approximately three dozen law student volunteers the opportunity either to help Habitat for Humanity open its new building materials warehouse, clean up James River Beach near Jamestown, or lend a hand at The Heritage Humane Society.
The three projects constituted the first such multi-site, one-day endeavor by law students and resulted from the cooperation of several student groups, including the George Wythe Society, the Environmental Law Society, the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, and the Volunteer Service Corps.
"My undergraduate school, Syracuse University, held a day like this, so I thought it would be a good idea for the Law School," said Jillian Jacobs, a second-year student who coordinated the event. "It fits in beautifully because so many students come here with a desire to give back as citizen lawyers."
The Habitat for Humanity project was held at the ReStore, a building materials warehouse on Jamestown Road that will accept donations of new and gently used building materials to be sold at greatly reduced prices. One hundred percent of the store's profits will be used to build homes in the Williamsburg area.
Faced with a lot to accomplish before the store's April 17 opening, ReStore staff were glad of the extra help. Students kept busy all day, building frames, painting, cutting carpet, and moving and cleaning appliances.
"With the exception of the ceiling done by professionals, this entire renovation has been done by volunteers," said Steve Russell, manager of the ReStore. "There are 26 students here today; the amount of work we'll get done is crucial to helping us meet our opening day deadline."
And it has benefits for students, too.
"I like to volunteer because it gets me out of my head," said second-year student Laura Bain, who was busy painting at the ReStore. "I stop studying for a little bit, stop thinking about all the things that worry me, and help someone else. It gives me perspective."
A few miles down Jamestown Road, another student group was busy in the rain at Jamestown Beach. Besides removing litter, they also helped replant sea grass - Spartina patens - which helps to keep the beach clean and prevents erosion.
The third project saw students doing yard work across town at the Heritage Humane Society in preparation for an upcoming Virginia Federation of Humane Societies conference. The pièce de resistance came when they moved in from the rain and got to meet some of the animals, including three very excited 10-week-old puppies.
"It's wonderful to keep up the Law School's great relationship with worthy causes," said third- year student Greg Proseus. "Getting to see the animals is icing on the cake."
Michael Rhodes, the director of communications and outreach at the Heritage Humane Society, was glad to provide that icing. He also hopes - as does Jacobs - that the law students will be available for similar work in the future.
"I would love it if this were a regular thing," Rhodes said. "We've always got projects going here - big projects like today's that need all hands on deck for a quick turnaround."
That suits animal lover, and frequent Heritage volunteer, Jillian Jacobs and her fellow students just fine.
"I received a lot of good feedback from everyone," Jacobs said. "It's easy to get caught up in nothing but one's studies, but many students are as passionate about volunteering as I am. It's a good thing to stop studying now and then and do something nice for the community."
if she has any say in the matter, the Day of Caring will not only
become an annual event, but a William & Mary Law School tradition as