A Part of the Equation

Nov 10th, 2010 | By admin | Category: Features

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

BY ABIGAIL HILL ’12

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.

Leave Comment