On the morning of June 4th, over 100 employee volunteers from American Eagle Outfitters joined SCA members and crew leaders for a waterfront clean-up at Riverside Park in Manhattan. Sporting blue and white t-shirts proclaiming the AEO motto "Live Your Life," employees arrived on the waterfront at 68th Street, where crumbling piers and a scattering of tires, driftwood, and other debris attested to the lingering impacts of Hurricane Sandy. A team of SCA crew leaders welcomed the volunteers to the park for a day of service to celebrate AEO's support of SCA's Hurricane Sandy Recovery Program this summer.
American Eagle Outfitters and SCA have partnered for the past six years to engage students in service to America’s National Parks. AEO has provided support for SCA’s Alternative Spring Break program, which engages over 120 college students around the country each year, and has provided general support and in-store promotion at more than 800 AEO store locations. This year, AEO and SCA have expanded their partnership to sponsor the “AE Donates. You Decide.” online competition to send a special SCA volunteer crew to a national park of the public’s choice. Voters chose the National Parks of New York Harbor to benefit from an all-expense-paid week-long volunteer crew. On June 16th, that crew of volunteers will be hitting the field to complete restoration work around New York Harbor, supported by generous funding from AEO.
But AEO employees aren't about to let SCA members have all the fun. At Riverside Park, employee volunteers set out armed with gloves and trash bags to collect debris along a half-mile of shoreline, removing litter before it could wash into the Hudson River and on to other parks downstream. A friendly competition emerged to see who could find the strangest object among the storm wreckage: a baseball? a coconut? a toilet seat? As participants gathered debris from the rocks, rolled out old tires, and hefted pieces of splintered timber, spirits stayed high. "It's a great day to be out of the office!" said one volunteer. "I didn't really know that much about SCA before this," another volunteer admitted. "But now that I'm out here, it's amazing to see what you guys are doing!"
By the end of the project, volunteers had gathered 65 garbage bags of debris, along with tires, broken boards, and other wreckage from the storm. Riverside Park Conservancy Volunteer Program Assistant Nya Jackson applauded the group's efforts, citing improved safety and accessibility for park visitors – as well as for local wildlife. During the event, several park patrons also stopped to congratulate the volunteers on their work. "This park is such an important place for this community," said one local resident, out for a ride on the bike path with his daughter. "But if you have rusted metal and all that trash on the beach, the kids can't play here. What all of you are doing today is great."
The Riverside clean-up was just one event in a series of projects organized by American Eagle as part of the AEO Better World initiative. AEO is investing in local communities by giving employees the opportunity to participate in a variety of volunteer events – from park clean-ups to invasive species removal and more. While volunteers in New York City were clearing debris along the Hudson River, other AEO employees were participating in service events around the country – including a park restoration project with SCA's Green Cities Corps in Pittsburgh. "At American Eagle Outfitters, our mantra is Live Your Life," says Marcie Eberhart, director of the American Eagle Outfitters Foundation. "We believe SCA helps young people do just that. It is a powerful partnership with tremendous potential."
SCA Service Events Manager Lori Robertson couldn’t agree more. “American Eagle’s dedication to community service makes them a natural partner for SCA,” she says. “Not only is AEO making a huge contribution by sponsoring a restoration crew this summer, but company employees are also coming out to show their support with hands-on service in the field. It’s this kind of commitment that will make a big difference for the parks of New York Harbor.”