WATERVILLE — Bryan Finnemore looked out Saturday over the expansive garden area behind the Waterville Historical Society’s Redington Museum on Silver Street where leaves, limbs and other debris from a long winter lay in thick piles all over the ground.

Finnemore, the museum’s curator and caretaker, directed about two dozen Colby College hockey players into the garden with rakes and 210 black leaf bags, and they cheerfully went to work.

“If I didn’t have Colby’s help, it would be me doing it all, so this means a lot,” Finnemore said. “It would probably take me weeks. What they will accomplish today will save me weeks’ worth of time.”

The hockey team represented only a fraction of the number of Colby students and staff members who spread out into the community from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday as part of Colby Cares Day, an annual day of community service led by the Colby Volunteer Center.

On Saturday, hundreds of students and faculty and staff members volunteered at about 20 sites, including the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter, the Alfond Youth Center, Humane Society Waterville Area and the Waterville Community Land Trust, all in Waterville; and the Hart-to-Hart Farm & Education Center and the Lovejoy Health Center, both in Albion.

At the historical society, Colby junior and hockey team captain Thomas Stahlhuth, 22, of St. Louis, Missouri, said the team was happy to be at the museum and had volunteered there last year as well.

“We’re just trying to reach out to the community and help any way we can,” he said.

Finnemore said this is the time of year when the museum prepares for opening, which occurs the day after Memorial Day, so the students’ help is tremendous. They would be raking leaves, pine needles and pine cones and picking up other debris that was significantly more abundant than in most years, as last winter was particularly harsh, according to Finnemore. He and his wife, Bonny, will spend the next few weeks cleaning and organizing the museum to get ready for opening day, he said.

“It usually takes us about a month to get ready,” Finnemore said. “What these guys do takes a huge chunk out of that.”

The museum’s main house was built in 1814, and an addition was built and opened in 1926, the year before the museum started offering tours, according to Finnemore. Tours are held Tuesday through Saturday, starting at 10 a.m. and repeated every hour, with a break between 1 and 2 p.m., he said.

“Last year was the 90th of doing tours,” Finnemore said, adding that lectures are held at the site every month. The first lecture of the season is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. May 10 and will feature Capt. Jonathan Bratten, historian for the Maine Army National Guard, talking about World War I. The lecture is free and open to the public.

At Hospice Volunteers of Waterville Area on Main Street, Colby juniors Walker Foehl, of Portland, Alison Levitt, of New York City, and Emily Price, of Winchester, Massachusetts, were working in the hospice memorial garden, taking down strings of Christmas lights from a shelter and off fences, rolling them up and taking them into the office to be put away for the season. The women, all 21, then picked up rakes and headed over to a garden at the hospice sign off Main Street and started clearing leaves and other debris. They said Colby has been trying to improve relations with the community and students love volunteering. Having one designated day for all volunteer efforts brings everyone together, they said.

“I think it’s great and it’s really nice that everyone’s so excited about this,” Levitt said. “It’s also nice to meet people in the Waterville community.”

Susan Roy, executive director of Hospice, said Saturday was not only Colby Cares Day but also Colby Day for Hospice. That evening, the organization would be honoring Colby senior Nick Pattison, who has been an outstanding hospice volunteer, according to Roy. She praised the students who help on Colby Cares Day.

“It’s wonderful to have them here. We look forward to it every year,” she said. “We’re just really blessed to have them.”

If there was time left over from raking, the three Colby students would sort children’s clothes to be sold at the hospice lawn sale scheduled for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday to benefit the organization, Roy said.

Meanwhile, at Sunset Home of Waterville, on College Avenue, an assisted-living residence that houses 20 women, seven Colby students were washing windows, raking, clearing flower beds and laying down mulch.

“It really gives them a sense of community, coming and helping,” said Arthur Levesque, Sunset’s maintenance coordinator. “They come and meet all the ladies afterward. When the ladies see this going on, they’re all looking out and they’re tickled.”

Colby freshman Viki Lin, 19, of New Orleans, was using a squeegee to clean windows.

“We just want to make sure they’re clean for the people who stay here,” Lin said.

Freshman Beryl Zhou, 18, a foreign student from China, said she was looking forward to spending time with Sunset residents after she and Lin finished their work.

“It’s a really nice way to connect Colby with the Waterville community because most of the time we’re just staying in our bubble,” Zhou said. “It’s really a nice way to sort of participate in the community.”

In back of Sunset Home, students were using a wheelbarrow and raking leaves and sticks while Levesque was repairing window screens. He said he is used to supervising crews as he works with employment agencies to help train people with traumatic brain injuries and those with special needs to learn skills so they can enter the work force.

Having the Colby students pitch in to help each year is integral to the success and survival of Sunset Home, he said.

“We are a small organization and we have a tight budget,” he said. “Volunteers are critical to our success. Without them, we’d be hard pressed to provide all the services that we provide. They’re doing a great job.”

A Colby Cares Day Festival was scheduled for noon to 2 p.m. Saturday at Couture Field on Water Street, and the community was invited, free of charge. The Colby Volunteer Center and Student Government Association were to host free activities and meals for children, as well as musical acts and other entertainment and offer food and free samples from local vendors.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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