On several street corners along MLK and out toward Exit 22 on Interstate 69, teams of students in bright orange shirts could be seen shoveling, planting, hauling and picking up. In other areas of the city, students cleaned up graffiti, cleaned out buildings and yards and helped their neighbors.
The service was part of Anderson University’s freshman orientation, where students new to the school had a chance to learn about their new city while cleaning it up. They worked until noon Saturday on the citywide projects.
“We really want the students here to feel like Anderson is their home for as long as they’re here,” said Dean Branson, AU’s director of student programs and organizer of the community service day. “By taking them literally to the streets, we’re hoping that in this small way we’re making this part of their community.
“We’re hoping they’ll get out there and see there’s opportunity to serve.”
Freshman Matt Carfagna said Anderson University’s policy that allows freshmen to have their vehicles on campus will allow them get more integrated into the community.
“I’m going to be driving around and I want it to look nice,” he said.
Carfagna, who is from Carmel, and his “family group” of about 15 people installed a beautification site at the southwest corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Madison Avenue, planting flowers and adding stone landscaping, and also did stone work across the street in Martin Luther King Park.
“I’m going to be here for the next four years, and I’m going to be in a community that’s nice,” said Kayla Shoemaker, a freshman from Auburn. “I want to be a part of Anderson.”
The freshman community service program has been done at AU before, but makes its debut this year after a hiatus of several years, Branson said. It follows with the mission of the university to get students involved in their community, and Branson said he hoped the activity would make freshmen more aware of their actions and what they, together, can do for the community.
“We hope they say, ‘Look what happens when we all work together to accomplish a goal,’” Branson said. “We’ll make differences in the places we go.”
About 550-600 freshman, transfer students and student leaders participated in the volunteer day, with about 140-150 of them working for the city of Anderson, doing projects like Carfagna and Shoemaker’s group did. Others worked at locations around town, like the Boys & Girls Club, churches, animal shelter and Triple L Youth Ranch.
“There’s so many people out there that need volunteers and are excited to have the college students help,” Branson said.
Debbie Imel of the Anderson Parks Department oversaw the progress of the group at Martin Luther King Boulevard and Madison Avenue.
“It’s a big help to us because we can get a lot of work done in one day,” Imel said. “When we get a chance to get kids like this, we love it, and it’s good for the community.
“They’re doing a great job. I’m really impressed with them.”
The community service day is only one activity in which freshmen participate during their orientation. They also have had meetings, eaten their meals together and continued to grow closer as family groups.
“We now have a peer group that we can call on and reach out to other people,” said Stephanie Comley, a freshman from Carlisle, Ohio.
—Aleasha Sandley is a reporter for the Herald Bulletin. Story republished with permission.
Day of helping
Anderson University freshman volunteers offered their time in a number of areas of the city on Saturday.
- Anderson Parks Department, landscaping
- North Anderson Elementary School, cleaning out building
- Removing graffiti on city property
- Anderson Animal Care and Control, cleaning out cages, walking animals
- Exits 22 and 26 off Interstate 69, picking up trash
- Dove Harbor and Operation Love, cleaning, maintenance
- Triple L Youth Ranch, clearing brush
- Liberty Christian School, weeding and picking up trash
- Christian Rescue Center, cleaning
- Wilson Boys & Girls Club, painting set for play
- Along College Drive, picking up trash
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2008, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the fourth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.