Most college students go downtown at night for a little fun and relaxation. But, when Sara Recchini, heads downtown, she is on a mission. Recchini, a senior at American International College, spends just about every Monday night helping Springfield's homeless population.
Recchini joins other concerned citizens each week bringing food, clothing and blankets for the less fortunate, who have no place to live. "I started doing it three years ago," Recchini said. "I really enjoy what I do. When I am not there at night, I really miss it."
Along with her Monday night work, Recchini also works full time for the Friends of the Homeless, where she helps run a transitional program for men. It's another labor of love for Recchini, who spends five nights a week, including two overnight shifts, at the shelter.
"We provide assistance for the men, help them find jobs, financial assistance, whatever they need," she said. "We’ve had people who have stayed in the shelter come back and later volunteer in the shelter and get their own apartments. It's a great feeling," Recchini said.
A psychology and history major, Recchini somehow finds time to be an excellent student. She currently has a 3.5 grade point average and has been inducted into the psychology honor society, Psi Chi. She was also recognized by Who's Who Among Students at American Universities and Colleges, and recently received an award at the AIC Women's History month Dinner. She also works in the AIC Admissions Office as a work study student, and in her "free time," she volunteers at the Lion's Den with teens in Indian Orchard.
How does she manage her busy schedule? "When you know you don't have a lot of time to do things, it makes you manage your time more efficiently," Recchini said.
"Everyone at AIC has been very supportive, and the professors are very understanding," she said.
John DeBonville, AIC Chaplin, said he knew Recchini was special when he first met her. "When she was a student in my Moral Problems class, I quickly found out that Sara had a keen mind and was a very hard worker," DeBonville said.
"Later in the semester I realized that Sara was a person of considerable faith and a commitment to helping those less fortunate than most college students. In my many years at AIC I have rarely found a student with this unique combination of intelligence, faith, and social awareness. Sara really has been a blessing not only for the AIC Family, but for the entire City of Springfield," DeBonville said.
Working the Streets of Springfield has been a learning experience for the Torrington, Conn,. native, but one she has thoroughly enjoyed. Recchini said helping the homeless is not as easy as it sounds. "People in the streets are probably more afraid of us than we are of them. A few times when we approached someone you could tell they were nervous seeing a group of people coming toward them. But when we told them we were friends and were there to help, they tended to relax. It's a matter of gaining their trust," she said.
Recchini said her parents were not overly enthusiastic when they first learned the extent of her volunteerism. "They were a little concerned that I was out in the streets at night, and alone in a men's shelter overnight. But when they realized I wasn't changing my mind, that my heart was really in it, they became very supportive," she said.
In the three years she has been making the Monday night downtown tour, Recchini said she has seen a lot of improvement. "We see that there are fewer homeless people staying outside for long periods of time in the winter. There are other outreach programs and shelters that are targeting homeless and it's really making a difference in the number of homeless people in Springfield," she said.
Recchini plans to continue her education after graduation in May, with the hopes of becoming a counselor.
For more information, contact the AIC Office of Public Relations at (413) 205-3231. You can reach Sara at 860-605-4301.