Volunteers Head Into the Streets

Published: Sep 12, 2006
Just days after arriving on campus, UT students gathered en masse to volunteer for UT’s sixth Into the Streets program on Aug. 26. The 8 a.m. Saturday start time brought a few sleepy-eyed bedheads among the Falk Theatre crowd, but by the end of President Vaughn’s encouraging words the youthful brigade was ready to scrub toilets, pull weeds, feed mouths and paint walls.

More than 250 students, faculty and staff participated in the annual UT event that sends volunteers, mostly incoming freshmen, into the community for half-day projects at locations such as Metropolitan Ministries, Lowry Park Zoo and Hope Children’s Home.

 

The closest destination was a few blocks away at Tampa Baptist Manor, a low-income housing unit for senior citizens. Divided into teams of two, volunteers were given an assortment of supplies and were assigned to clean apartment kitchens and bathrooms.

Dorothy Murray, 85, smiled broadly when greeted by two freshman students, Sean Larson and Kevin Jagnandan. Quickly retreating to her book and a comfortable chair, Murray said that she appreciated the young volunteers’ efforts.

“It means a lot because it takes a lot for me to do the housework,” said Murray. “The bathroom is hard for me to do. I have to get down, and I have a bad back.”

Larson, 17, enthusiastically donned rubber gloves before polishing Murray’s sink. Prior to arriving at UT, the spiky-haired student had frequently volunteered as an emergency room technician at a hospital in Massachusetts. Volunteering, he said, offers a sense of accomplishment and a chance to form new relationships.

“I enjoy the bond that you make, the smiles on their faces and how happy they are to see someone come help them out,” said Larson.

As a three-time Into the Streets veteran and an Orientation Team leader, senior Teresa Bargiel appeared to be a savvy scrubber. She said that she was glad to be able to participate again after last year’s event was cancelled because of inclement weather.

“It feels good even though we’re doing something little like cleaning people’s apartments,” said Bargiel, whose past volunteer efforts have included painting, sweeping streets, and working for the Humane Society.

At Metropolitan Ministries in downtown Tampa, Professor Rosario Urso worked alongside students to diligently sort and hang donated clothing. His group collectively sorted through more than 700 items.

“It gives you a very pronounced opportunity to realize that you’re connected,” said Urso. “It is satisfying to share, to expend yourself to people of need.”

Urso, a second-time participant, said that Into the Streets helped him to be a role model. This sentiment was shared by Aylin Saner, 18, a freshman from Tampa, who also desired to establish a path others might follow.

“It’s really important for our generation to be involved and become role models for future generations,” said Saner, sorting through pantsuits, pajamas and countless other dusty clothes. “Knowing that I’m giving back is probably the most important thing about volunteer work.”

 

For many new students, Into the Streets created an opportunity to gain fresh experiences. Tromoui Malone, a freshman from the Virgin Islands, worked with four others to weed and mulch a butterfly garden at nearby Gorrie Elementary.

“It was great,” said Malone, catching his breath after shoveling a new pathway. “This is my first time off campus since I’ve been here. This was my first time working in a garden and a good experience.”

Also in the garden were McKay Hall freshman roommates Kristen Nash and Alex Parrish, who met only a few days before. Laughing about their sweat-stained clothes and minor abrasions, the pair seemed to have no regrets about participating, despite staying out late the night prior.

“She had to drag me out of bed,” said Parrish of her friend Nash, “but it was definitely worthwhile!”

Into the Streets reflects an important aspect of the University’s mission, which includes the promotion of experiential learning or “learning by doing.” The event was coordinated by UT’s P.E.A.C.E. Volunteer Center. For more information about service opportunities, please contact P.E.A.C.E. at (813) 253-3333 x 3695 or peace@ut.edu.