The return of Toll Day: A time for Union to give back to the community

Publication Date

A year after the pandemic forced Union to scale back its College-wide community service project, the annual event returns with a full slate of projects this weekend.

For more than two decades, volunteers from the campus community have fanned out across Schenectady on a Saturday in the fall to clean up parks and public spaces and provide other help as needed. Coordinated by the College’s Kenney Community Center, the day strengthens Union’s commitment to the city through these service opportunities.

Toll Day

Started in 1996, the event has been known as John Calvin Toll Day since 2001.

Toll Day is Union’s biggest single day of community service, generating support from Greek Life, Athletics, clubs, organizations and many individuals.

Nearly 300 people have signed up to assist this year, said Janet Sweeney, director of community outreach.

The day kicks off at 9 a.m. with volunteers helping with the Alzheimer's Awareness Walk at Mohawk Harbor and picking up litter along the Mohawk-Hudson Bike Trail.

Other projects include general fall cleanup at Schenectady Urban Gardens, Gateway Plaza, the Zoller School garden, South Avenue park and the Patroon Land Farm in Voorheesville.

Volunteers also will help at the Museum of Innovation and Science (miSci), Schenectady Inner City Ministry and the Schenectady County Public Library.

“We are very excited that John Calvin Toll Day will be back to the normal model of having hundreds of Union folks serving the community,” said Sweeney. “Toll Day is always an exciting way to kick off the year's volunteer programming.”

John Calvin Toll was a member of Union’s first graduating class in 1799. The community service project is supported by a gift from Al Hill ‘46 and his wife, Perrie.

Toll was the great-great-grandfather of Hill, a retired attorney from Buffalo who died in 2007. The Hills created the fund to encourage Union students to undertake volunteer service.

“We believe that the experiences from this activity will carry over beyond graduation and enrich not only those they serve but also the volunteers,” said Hill when the gift was announced.