Although her hometown is more than two hours north in Ligonier, Anderson University student Alyssa Schermerhorn thinks of Anderson as home too.
The college junior has spent much of the last three years in Anderson, so she decided last year to give back to the city by forming Operation Foundation, an organization aimed at cleaning up Anderson neighborhoods. Headquartered this year at the Geater Center, Operation Foundation is in the midst of its second annual week of service.
“(We do) anything and everything that needs done in this area,” co-coordinator Jesse Luke said. “Last year, we went into it completely blind. We were shocked that people wanted to come out here. It’s great to know we’re helping people.” [Photo on left: From left Kyle Reichert, a junior Exercise Science major from Tucson Ariz., and Andy Kennedy, a senior marketing major from Muncie, repaint the sign at Martin Luther King Jr. Park as Anderson University students took part in Operation Foundation Wednesday.]
This year, Operation Foundation expects about 600-700 volunteers over the weeklong project cleaning up an area of the city within about a mile radius of the Geater Center. Before cleanup began, the group canvassed the area asking residents, businesses and the city administration what needed to be done.
“We basically asked people, ‘If you had a free work crew, what would you do?’” said Luke, an AU senior.
Wednesday, crews spent much of the work hours removing tires from near railroad tracks, pulling down fencing, mowing, weeding and painting playground equipment. AU senior Jordan Mathis led a group of about 15 volunteers who were cleaning up around the Martin Luther King Jr. monument near Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Madison Avenue. v“We’re just kind of getting things looking neater, nicer,” Mathis said. “It’s a nice monument, and we want it to look nice.”
Mathis said Anderson had been his home for the last four years.
“We just want to give back and make it a better community for everybody to live in,” he said. “Most people spend four to five years here, so it is kind of home. We can kind of get caught up in the campus and not really see there’s a city.”
Dusten Tryon, who led the group with Mathis, said he had bought a house in the same area where volunteers were working and was fixing it up to try to do his part to help the city.
“I’ve grown up in Anderson,” Tryon said. “You just get a little sense of pride in knowing people are coming out here to help.”
Schermerhorn said her hometown of Ligonier began a similar cleanup program four years ago and she wanted to bring it to Anderson.
“I kind of realized how I wasn’t doing a lot to help out in my community,” she said. “I kind of thought it was time to start doing something.”
Last year’s Operation Foundation event saw 490 volunteers and 1,600 volunteer hours, and more people from the university and the community are volunteering this year.
“We would love to have more people from the community,” Schermerhorn said. “We want this to be much bigger than just the school.”
Both Schermerhorn and Luke have grown fond of Anderson in their time here, they said. [Photo on right: Grant Baumgartner, a sophomore math education major from New Paris, trims bushes along Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard as Anderson University students took part in Operation Foundation Wednesday.]
“Anderson does a lot for me,” Schermerhorn said. “I love this town. The more people I meet, the more I like it. Tons of people want to do something here; they just don’t know where to start.”
Luke said, “Some students are more connected, but there’s a lot of people ... they just don’t know what’s out there. We’re exposing our peers to what us and some other people know the community to be.”
—Aleasha Sandley is a reporter for The Herald Bulletin. Photo credits: Don Knight. Story republished with permission.
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 2009, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the sixth 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.