Cleaning Up

Before the dew drops evaporated under the rising sun Saturday morning, students already gathered in front of the Alumni Memorial Union for the largest one-day service event in the nation. One of those students was sophomore Dan Abel.

Abel, an engineering major, joined over 1,400 students from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday for Hunger Clean-Up. Volunteers helped alleviate hunger and pick up trash at local community organizations around Milwaukee. The students' actions also helped spread awareness about hunger and homelessness issues.

Abel said he participated in Hunger Clean-Up last year and was placed at a day care center, where he raked leaves, picked up garbage, mopped floors and cleaned windows.

"It was more fun than I expected it to be," Abel said. "I was in O'Donnell and our R.A. convinced a group of us to go. The place was pretty dirty for a day care center."

Abel was recently initiated into Tau Beta Pi, an engineering honors society. One of the requirements for Tau Beta Pi is to do a service project and this year most members chose Hunger Clean-Up.

About 10 society members met in the Olin Engineering Building at 8:15 a.m. and then walked to the AMU to sign-up and grab a bagel or two.

The society members boarded Bus 18 with two more groups at about 9 a.m. One group, led by sophomre Justine Musselman, a student in the College of Nursing, worked with Tau Beta Pi at Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Center. Another group, led by junior Melissa Eckert, a student in the College of Arts & Sciences, traveled farther to Goodwill Industries.

Sophomore Ben Banks, a biomedical science major who helped organize Hunger Clean-Up, explained safety precautions before the bus left.

Banks said Hunger Clean-Up was a better alternative to other Saturday activities.

"We're gonna do what we can," Banks said. "It's better to get involved than sit in your room alone. And it's a lot of fun."

Tau Beta Pi and Musselman's group got off the bus at the Milwaukee County Behavioral Health Center and waited for instructions from Bernie Freckmann, mechanical maintenance superintendent and main volunteer coordinator at the site.

Freckmann said this was his second year working directly with the volunteers. According to Freckmann, the budget has been cut over the past few years and most of the grounds crew has been absorbed by other Department of Public Works jobs, leaving the management of the MCBHC.

Freckmann said Hunger Clean-Up volunteers help greatly.

"It gives us an opportunity to catch up with things," Freckmann said. "It's very helpful. I'm glad that you're here."

The students grabbed bags, gloves, rakes and dust pans to clean lawns around six buildings. Abel started removing cigarette butts, crushed aluminum cans and other trash along the parking lot. He then moved around one side of the building while his trash bag increased in weight.

Abel said although last year's Hunger Clean-Up experience was somewhat more meaningful because he knew he was directly helping the community, he could perceive how cleaning up would affect this organization.

"Say there's a patient here and they decide to get a breath of fresh air," Abel said. "It could make a difference in their day to see a clean landscape. It's something small but stuff like that could help."

Abel's team members scattered with their own trash bags and picked up broken plastic straws, accumulated cigarette butts and raked leaves.

Senior Meg Whitaker, an industrial engineering major and Tau Beta Pi member, said although many things affected her experience it feels good to be doing something for the community.

"It depends so much on where you're placed and the weather," Whitaker said. "I kind of miss interacting with people but you can tell they need help. It's nice to be able to make an impact."

At about 11:45 a.m. the bus returned to pick up Abel and the group of volunteers. When they returned to the AMU, the group had sandwiches and drinks with the rest of the Hunger Clean-Up volunteers.

Abel said he plans to be a part of Hunger Clean-Up at least one more time before he graduates.