By Zoe Wang (IV)

This year’s annual Rufus Gunther Day, held on October 25, was a resounding success. Following the annual tradition, more than a thousand members of the Pingry community, including 600 Upper School students, 270 middle schoolers, and 100 faculty members, participated in this day of community service. 

Ms. Shelley Hartz, Director of Community Service, has been directing Rufus Gunther Day for fifteen years. Before her arrival to Pingry, Rufus Gunther Day was neither a full-day event nor a diversified community service operation; the whole school simply volunteered at a food bank. Now, Rufus Gunther Day is a whole day of community service that has expanded to include dozens of organizations. Ms. Hartz said, “Rufus Gunther Day is one of my favorite days on campus; it feels like I am planning a wedding or a huge party. Planning it involves a lot of huge moving parts at once, but it feels great while it’s happening. When it’s over, I’m a little sad.” 

Pingry partnered with thirty-eight organizations this year. Middle schoolers traveled to five organizations off-campus and five on-campus, two of which involved working outdoors. Upper School students attended thirty-six off-campus activities, in addition to six on-campus ones. 

As always, students worked with a wide range of organizations. Grade 6 and Form I students went to the Community Food Bank in Hillside, while Middle School glee students sang at Centerbridge, a senior citizen residence. Other middle schoolers volunteered at the Great Swamp or helped with remaining on-campus projects. 

At the Upper School, Drama students went to three special needs schools that Pingry has built a long-standing relationship with. Peer Leaders went to the Christopher and Dana Reeves Foundation, while Honor Board members helped prepare Wick Gardens for the winter. Form IV lifers were given the chance to return to the Lower School to work with Ms. Smith on the garden they originally helped build. 

This year, Mr. Steve Frantz, a technology specialist at Pingry, started a new and innovative project. Working with Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart, he helped students create prosthetic hands for kids that need them. This also gave students the chance to use the school’s 3D printer.  

Some projects students participated in were started by alumni, including A Birthday Wish, which is run by a Pingry alum and development employee. Potters for Peace, which uses their profits to donate to a cancer support community, was also founded by a Pingry alum. 
Rufus Gunther Day has been a tradition at Pingry that continues to bring a smile to everyone’s face. Ms. Hartz noted, “Rufus Gunther Day is one of the best things that we do as a community. It demonstrates the commitment from the administration to ensure that the Pingry community has the opportunity to live our mission statement.”