A Part of the Equation

Nov 10th, 2010 | By | Category: Features

Through the 123=ABC com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice event, par­tic­i­pants weed­ed, paint­ed, plant­ed, rebuilt and cleaned to beau­ti­fy the local com­mu­ni­ty.


Maria Rebori, Edgar Soto, Jack­ie Lom­bar­do and Tan­ner Polce (kneel­ing) clean up trash on State Street as part of Team Malm­berg dur­ing the 123=ABC com­mu­ni­ty clean-up event.

On August 21, fac­ul­ty, staff, com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers and stu­dents gath­ered with gloves, brush­es and ham­mers in hand. More than 800 par­tic­i­pants in total came togeth­er at the Wes­ley cam­pus pre­ced­ing the largest clean-up project that the City of Dover has ever seen. Part­ner­ing with the Dover Hous­ing Author­i­ty (DHA), Cen­tral Delaware Habi­tat for Human­i­ty (CDHFH), City of Dover and the Office of the Hon­or­able Sen­a­tor Tom Carp­er, Wes­ley incor­po­rat­ed the com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice project into its New Stu­dent Ori­en­ta­tion pro­gram­ming. The Class of 2014 took to the streets, start­ing their col­lege expe­ri­ence by giv­ing back to their new com­mu­ni­ty.

The 123=ABC event was a one-day project focus­ing on improv­ing curb appeal and streetscape with­in the down­town Dover area. From 8:30 a.m. until 3 p.m., par­tic­i­pants weed­ed, paint­ed, plant­ed, rebuilt and cleaned to beau­ti­fy the local com­mu­ni­ty and give City of Dover res­i­dents pride in their homes and neigh­bor­hood. The efforts focused on a 20 block radius includ­ing the City of Dover/Carper Home­own­er­ship Pro­gram Tar­get Area, from Loock­er­man Street north to Mary Street to Gov­er­nors Avenue west to West Street. Dur­ing the sum­mer, local res­i­dents had a chance to apply for the project and near­ly 25 home­own­ers put their homes on the list for main­te­nance.

“It takes a com­mu­ni­ty to main­tain a com­mu­ni­ty,” explained Joce­lyn McBride, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the CDHFH.

Mem­bers of the Wes­ley Col­lege fam­i­ly made up the bulk of the clean-up crew with a whop­ping 720 par­tic­i­pants con­sist­ing of 600 incom­ing fresh­men as well as stu­dent-ath­letes back on cam­pus for pre­sea­son train­ing, fac­ul­ty and staff. It was the ini­tial hope of Mary-Alice Oze­chos­ki, dean of stu­dents, that in inte­grat­ing the event into the College’s Ori­en­ta­tion, it would allow stu­dents “to under­stand a lit­tle bit more about the City of Dover and inspire them dur­ing their four years at Wes­ley Col­lege to give back.”

With reg­is­tra­tion start­ing at 7 a.m. in the Dashiell Amphithe­atre, event orga­niz­ers spent the ear­ly morn­ing hours prepar­ing last minute details before the hun­dreds of vol­un­teers showed up. Every­one was giv­en a “good­ie buck­et” cour­tesy of DHA. These were full of local infor­ma­tion, coupons for area busi­ness­es and prizes donat­ed by spon­sors. T-shirts designed by Wes­ley stu­dents were also hand­ed out at reg­is­tra­tion to all the vol­un­teers. The shirts fea­tured the 123=ABC event name and a cus­tom logo illus­trat­ing a group of peo­ple hold­ing hands in a cir­cle with the words “Be Part of the Equa­tion.” “It was all about mak­ing sure our vol­un­teers were tak­en care of and appre­ci­at­ed,” explained Ami Sebas­t­ian-Hauer, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the DHA.

Pres­i­dent Bill John­ston pro­vid­ed wel­com­ing remarks, along with Sen­a­tor Carp­er and var­i­ous com­mu­ni­ty and event lead­ers. After gath­er­ing their maps and assign­ments, the throng of vol­un­teers dis­persed like a swarm of work­er bees through­out the sur­round­ing neigh­bor­hood. Split into morn­ing and after­noon shifts, crews of 10 to 15 indi­vid­u­als tend­ed to spe­cif­ic sites and projects with a sin­gu­lar mis­sion.

Alyssa Bat­ty flex­es her mus­cles while clean­ing up the over­growth sur­round­ing a com­mu­ni­ty home.

The groups were project spe­cif­ic, vary­ing in size based on the task at hand. Some project sites called for gen­er­al con­trac­tors pro­vid­ed by the CDHFH. The Dover Police Depart­ment was also involved in the 123=ABC event, head­ing up teams and adding extra secu­ri­ty in the streets to secure safe­ty and pro­vide direc­tions if need­ed. With­in the 20 block radius, water stops, port-a-pot­ties and dump­sters were set up, cour­tesy of the City of Dover and oth­er event part­ners. Back at the Wes­ley cam­pus, a first aid sta­tion was avail­able and an EMT was on call. With every detail well coor­di­nat­ed, the event pro­ceed­ed smooth­ly.

Each group had a lead vol­un­teer, either a fac­ul­ty or staff mem­ber, upper­class­man ori­en­ta­tion leader, res­i­dent assis­tant or a com­mu­ni­ty leader, who was in charge of project sup­plies, assign­ing indi­vid­ual tasks and super­vis­ing the site. “An impor­tant part was for our stu­dents to see staff and fac­ul­ty help­ing in a dif­fer­ent envi­ron­ment, not in a class­room or in an office, but for stu­dents to see them as real peo­ple lend­ing a hand just like them,” expressed Oze­chos­ki.

Includ­ed in the 123=ABC event were gen­er­al revi­tal­iza­tion tasks, such as paint­ing curbs, cut­ting back over­grown veg­e­ta­tion, clean­ing up lit­ter around the streets, and spruc­ing up two neigh­bor­hood play­grounds and a day­care cen­ter. In addi­tion, vol­un­teer groups com­plet­ed projects at 25 home sites, such as build­ing a wheel­chair ramp, re-screen­ing front porch­es, paint­ing, repair­ing trim around win­dows and doors, pow­er wash­ing sid­ing, repair­ing gut­ters, replac­ing stairs, plant­i­ng shrubs and pick­ing up trash. The event catered to prop­er­ty own­ers who had applied for assis­tance, many of whom were elder­ly or unable to com­plete the tasks on their own. How­ev­er, there were no spe­cif­ic cri­te­ria keep­ing any com­mu­ni­ty mem­ber from get­ting a lit­tle help from the 123=ABC event.

“Dover is our home,” Oze­chos­ki said. “There are some beau­ti­ful homes and some beau­ti­ful spaces that we are all aware of, but there are some places real­ly very close to our cam­pus that need our help. Unlike oth­er local insti­tu­tions, it is right in our back yard.”

From left: Sebastien The­lis­ma, Megan Albano and Antho­ny Devone help to tidy up a local play­ground

As the event wrapped up in the late after­noon, all the vol­un­teers trick­led back to Wesley’s cam­pus to enjoy a bar­beque din­ner cel­e­bra­tion host­ed by Ara­mark Din­ing Ser­vices. In addi­tion to plen­ti­ful food, this includ­ed live music and infor­ma­tion on oth­er com­mu­ni­ty vol­un­teer pro­grams. Wes­ley admin­is­tra­tors hope to use the event as a spring­board to give stu­dents a feel for com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice and then offer plen­ti­ful oppor­tu­ni­ties for them to con­tin­ue to stay involved. “I think that the expec­ta­tion is that, of the four col­leges in Dover, Wes­ley becomes an insti­tu­tion whose hall­mark is ser­vice, because we are church relat­ed, because we are res­i­den­tial and frankly, because of where we sit in Dover we have a com­mit­ment to our com­mu­ni­ty and to peo­ple less for­tu­nate than our stu­dents,” explained Oze­chos­ki.

It was only through months of hard work and suc­cess­ful col­lab­o­ra­tion that a project of this mag­ni­tude was even pos­si­ble. From the Col­lege, Oze­chos­ki and the Stu­dent Life staff as well as the new Direc­tor of Spir­i­tu­al Life and Com­mu­ni­ty Engage­ment Eri­ca Brown made up the dri­ving force behind the 123=ABC event plan­ning. CDHFH also played a tremen­dous role in the plans, cov­er­ing logis­tics, the coor­di­nat­ing of projects and the gath­er­ing of super­vi­sors. DHA con­tributed sig­nif­i­cant­ly to the efforts by gath­er­ing requests for com­mu­ni­ty projects from local res­i­dents and assess­ing the work, and recruit­ing event spon­sors. All orga­ni­za­tions involved pro­vid­ed vol­un­teers and were indis­pen­si­ble part­ners in the for­ma­tion of the event.

In addi­tion to the plan­ning and labor need­ed to pull off such a large-scale project, mon­e­tary and in-kind dona­tions were nec­es­sary to the suc­cess of 123=ABC. One of the biggest con­trib­u­tors was Lowe’s, which donat­ed a major­i­ty of the project sup­plies and vol­un­teer equip­ment such as con­struc­tion gloves, hats and tools. Wal­mart Dis­tri­b­u­tion Cen­ter pro­vid­ed a dona­tion of mulch and top soil. WSFS and Cit­i­zens Bank, among oth­er area banks, con­tributed both mon­e­tary gifts as well as vol­un­teers for the event, as did down­town mer­chants, Sen­a­tor Carp­er, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Dar­ryl Scott and Mrs. Car­la Markell, wife of Delaware Gov­er­nor Jack Markell. Oth­er local non-prof­it groups, includ­ing Down­town Dover Part­ner­ship and House of Pride, joined in to help get the project under­way.

“What we are doing is the start of a revi­tal­iza­tion project, and I am hop­ing that it will spur some kind of com­mu­ni­ty improve­ment and prop­er­ty improve­ment with­in the own­ers and the land­lords so that they start to real­ize in order to draw peo­ple down­town and to move into that area, it needs curb appeal and streetscape to change the atmos­phere,” said Sebas­t­ian-Hauer.

A.J. Rob­le­do, Todd Hayes and Mer­le Red­ding repaint a Dover resident’s garage.

A true group effort, the 123=ABC event has proven to the City of Dover that a strong com­mu­ni­ty effort can change the streetscape for the bet­ter. At the same time, there also is a need for ongo­ing work to keep the neigh­bor­hoods clean and attrac­tive. With this first-time event con­sid­ered to be a suc­cess by all accounts, it may become an annu­al event for the Dover com­mu­ni­ty.

The event also rein­forced the idea, both to the College’s stu­dents and local res­i­dents, that Wes­ley is a key com­mu­ni­ty play­er. “The expe­ri­ence helped me to real­ize that no mat­ter how small the change, whether it be paint­ing a fence or weed­ing a gar­den, that small changes are the best way to start mak­ing a big dif­fer­ence,” expressed fresh­man Brit­tany Black­ston of Dover.

Immers­ing them­selves in com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice and get­ting their hands dirty in the process, the newest mem­bers of the Col­lege com­mu­ni­ty quick­ly became “part of the equa­tion” as the event’s tagline sug­gest­ed. Oze­chos­ki added, “I hope it starts a notion that when you come to Wes­ley Col­lege, part of being here is doing com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice. It’s a piece of who we are.”

To view more pho­tos from this events vis­it the Wes­ley Col­lege Flickr page.

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