Lawson Lake County Park got an overdue makeover, with hundreds of volunteers coming together to help out and celebrate the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps.
A light drizzle did not dampen the moods of AmeriCorps members, along with volunteers from other organizations, on Thursday, Sept. 11, as they scattered about the park and cleaned up debris, painted buildings and participated in other beautification efforts. The event was also part of the Sept. 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance.
Albany County Executive Dan McCoy said since AmeriCorps’ founding, it has contributed $1.2 billon of free labor nationwide. More than 72,000 AmeriCorps members in New York state have completed 110 million hours of service.
“It’s an honor to be here, especially with AmeriCorps on their 20th anniversary,” Albany County Executive Dan McCoy said. “Lawson Lake is already having a positive impact on kids with its summer camps. With volunteers and our partners today, we are working together to make the park even better so that even more people will be able to enjoy it.”
McCoy credited Chris Lenaghan, who died on Aug. 20, with embracing the project and helping attract AmeriCorps and others to volunteer to the park. Lenaghan was employed at the county IT department as a senior applications specialist.
“It is not easy to bring 500 volunteers … for one project for the greater Capital Region, and Chris did that with my brother,” McCoy said.
Brian McCoy, of the County Sheriff’s Department, said the light rain during the event “were tears of joy” coming from Lenaghan watching from above.
Linda Cohen, executive director of the state Commission on National and Community Service, said New Yorkers have stepped up to answer AmeriCorps’ call for community service.
“Days like today are opportunities for individuals and organizations to engage in service activities that benefit their communities,” Cohen said. “I am so pleased that hundreds of AmeriCorps members from across New York state are here to polish this jewel of park in Albany County.”
Cohen said the National Day of Service is about more than volunteering because it’s “about finding the best in ourselves and showing kindness to others.”
Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said the park started out as an “overgrown 400-acre (space) that sat vacant for a while.” He credited, along with Lenaghan, Brian McCoy for mentoring and helping out several children throughout the county.
Apple said the recently opened summer camp has provided a valuable opportunity for many kids.
“You can come out here all day and have a great time, but you are going to learn. You are going to do something and you are going to get something productive out of it,” Apple said. “We can’t arrest our way out of problems. … My goal is to have our 1,000 jail cells in Albany County all vacant. That means that we did the right thing.”
Apple quipped the county has “a hard time” getting its own residents out to the park, so he hoped the volunteer efforts would spur more local residents to see the value of the park.
Home Depot provided a $1,000 grant to help cover supplies for the day. The company also would be sending employees to the park in a few weeks to complete whatever work wasn’t finished during the Sept. 11 event.
Dan McCoy said the volunteer efforts would place the county “years ahead” of where it planned on being with revitalization efforts.
“You guys are really the shot in the arm that we truly need,” Apple said to the volunteers.