Hunger Clean Up hopes for record-breaking turn out

A crowd gathers at the start of Hunger Clean Up. Photo courtesy of Leslie La Bonte.

Whether it be food inventory, indoor or outdoor maintenance, painting or gardening, students will have a chance to make an impact in Milwaukee on April 21 during Hunger Clean-Up.

Hunger Clean-Up, a 23-year-old Marquette tradition, is a day of service that sends Marquette students throughout Milwaukee to assist different agencies’ work in addressing poverty. The April 21 date also aligns with Global Youth Service Day, National Volunteer Week and Earth Day.

Hunger Clean-Up brings together over 1,500 volunteers and 50 agencies each April, according the Hunger Clean-Up Marquette website.

Last year, the number of volunteers surpassed the usual 1,500, with over 1,700 volunteers registered total.

This year, the leadership team is hoping for similarly large numbers, though, to this point, registration has been slow.

“We could use 1,200 volunteers signed up by Friday, based on the needs of agencies,” said Leslie La Bonte, coordinator for Community Service Programs. “We really need everyone to register.”

La Bonte said they seek to place students in agencies to accomplish a project that may be particularly difficult.

The March 9 registration deadline — this Friday — is earlier by one week because of Spring Break and Easter Break, but the group wanted to ensure that there was enough time to match groups with a worksite and to run through the day’s activities.

“We just want to make sure that the day-of … things go smoother,” La Bonte said.

This year, the leadership team is making sure those participating in the day of service are informed on where they are going. There will be a meeting with team leaders the first weekend in April so participants become educated on the impact they are having on the worksite and how it relates to the Milwaukee community.

“That’s what the team leader meeting the first weekend in April is about, to give examples of how what we’ll be doing relates to the greater picture of Milwaukee,” said Sarah Thiry, team leader for Volunteer Outreach and a junior in the College of Nursing.

Sofi Gomez, chair of Community Awareness and Education for the group and a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences, said that the smaller things add up.

“Students may be volunteering at smaller places. Though you might be at a food pantry, (the site) benefits from that,” Gomez said. “If you look at the greater picture you really are making an impact.”

They are also hoping that the day of service leads to a commitment.

“It could be a one-day feeler for students to become more involved and build a commitment to service,” said Will Herbert, co-coordinator for Hunger Clean-Up.

“The worksites work with us to highlight volunteer needs. We help communicate that to the team leaders so they have awareness of the need on an ongoing basis,” La Bonte said.

Thiry said that they will honor worksites with a donation.

“We are planning on giving $3,000 to worksites. They will be honored the morning-of,” Thiry said. The group has been fundraising since November and has gotten donations through sponsorships from companies like Veolia Enviornmental, Kohl’s and Premier Flooring. The group has also gotten in-kind donations from the Milwaukee Brewers and Sodexo.

Herbert said the recipients of last year’s grants included the House of Peace and the AIDS Resource Center.

In addition, La Bonte said they have organized volunteer work at new sites, including the Delphi House and Hope House of Milwaukee. So far the group has 54 sites available for student volunteer work on the day of Hunger Clean-Up.

La Bonte said that groups may use their own transportation, walk or take the Lamer’s buses on route patterns depending on the location of the site and the group.

Given that Hunger Clean-Up falls on Lil’ Sibs weekend, La Bonte said younger siblings are also eligible to participate as long as they are registered by Friday.

“As long as we can accommodate them and abide by laws on age restrictions, they are welcome to to join Marquette community members in service,” La Bonte said.