"Wow! He is a Showman!" volunteer, Nick Shank, shouted after President Roderick McDavis opened Sunday's Athens Beautification Day. The almost uncontainable enthusiasm from both President McDavis and my friend, Nick, summed up the overall feeling of the day for me. It was so encouraging seeing students and community members blanket the amphitheater outside Scripps Hall on a Sunday afternoon because, like McDavis said, we were there not because we had to be there but because we wanted to be there.
|Student and community member volunteers listening to Mayor Paul Whiel give the opening address. There's 800 people there. Eight. Hundred.|
Friendships are strengthened and created through these volunteering opportunities. You bond with other residents and community members, learning more about the place you have occupied (or will occupy) for four of the most unique years of your life. The Off-Campus Life Commission of OU Student Senate has done an incredible job organizing Athens Bday (Athens Beautification Day) this year. Their goal is a simple one, Keep Athens Beautiful. Anyone can see the beauty in Athens, not just the lively, picturesque town and it’s unique businesses but the nature that surrounds and engulfs it and most of all, the people that reside in it. Over the past eight years the event has grown from a few small groups of people to an astounding 800 students and community members this year. There were 30 projects planned covering a five square mile radius. Some of these projects were located at Stroud's Run, The Ridges, Passion Works, the Eco House, and numerous parks. Tasks ranged from graffiti removal and trash cleanup, to weeding, painting, landscaping and other pick-me-ups. Because there were so many volunteers and because we were so eager to help out, occasionally those residents and volunteers in charge had to do a little scrounging to find more jobs for us to do!
|Sarah, surrounded by her signature color.|
I had an absolute blast helping out with Annette Drapac and Ryan Young at Putt People First, the putt putt golf course at The Ridges. In case you don't really know what the colorful course is all about, don't worry; I've got you covered. The course is a fundraiser that supports the Employment Services Program for People with Disabilities and the Athens Area Mediation Service (a group dedicated to finding cooperative approaches to resolving disputes in nice, calm ways). Local businesses sponsor a hole and in turn get a snazzy advertisement that becomes the obstacles for that particular hole. Too Cool.
What else was cool? Definitely not us; we were sweating up a storm. The sun decided to grace us with its presence finally, making the day enjoyable to work in. Honestly, we could not have attempted half the projects if it was another classic day of rain, so I thank you for joining us, sunshine.
|Please note the pocket protector, he's handsome and smart.|
There must have been over 30 people helping out in that small stretch of land, weeding painting, sweeping, and building. Annette reconstructed a few obstacles, and she, Ryan, and I painted a few of the signs that will soon showcase advertisements. I stuck with the paint and made my way to all that was green. By the end of the day, my hands were coated in a layer of green paint. Kermit was right; it's not easy being green. Speaking of frogs, Ryan made this frog one of the most handsome frogs in all of Athens. Probably all of Ohio.
Helping those who need it, repairing the broken, breathing new life into the old and worn out, when you look back at all the effort you and your friends put forth, there is often a great sense of humility, joy and honor in knowing that you had a part in all. The coolest part about volunteering is that anyone can do it. Any bit of effort has an affect. When I take a look around these last four years in Athens, I am so happy and so blessed to have been apart of all this change.
|Annette & Sarah working hard on reconstructing the quilted obstacles.|
-Sarah MillerBehind the Scenes team l Project C