Almost 170 volunteers gathered at the Shorewood Public Library for the 8th annual fall clean-up on Saturday, November 7 at 9 am. While the event is an effort to help out the community’s senior citizens by cleaning their yards, it is also a chance for people of different ages to meet one another.
Molly Burghardt, junior, is one of the two high school students that helped to organize the clean-up this year.
“I love the fall clean-up,” Burghardt said, “I did last year’s spring clean-up, and it was cool because the spring-clean up wasn’t as much of a showing, and almost 170 people came to the fall clean-up. Everyone was really excited and we got a lot of work done.”
The event truly focuses on the community, especially the elderly. “It’s a young community, but there’s a lot of elderly people who need our help. They can’t do things by themselves so we need to band together,” Burghardt said.
Michelle Boehm, clean-up coordinator, has been running the show for the past two and a half years. “The number one reason that we do it is to connect people inter-generationally in the community,” Boehm said.
Boehm said that students don’t always realize what connections they might share with senior citizens. “I have heard from more than a few people that they had really nice conversations with the people they went to rake leaves for, and they discovered something in common,” Boehm said.
The feeling seems to be mutual on the opposite end. “All of the seniors who we checked with after the event said that they were so impressed with how nice and how friendly the students were- it just made their whole day,” Boehm said.
Boehm said that this aspect of the clean-up is especially meaningful, as some elderly people cannot get around as easily, and end up feeling secluded or lonely.
“Sometimes when older people in their homes have a harder time moving around and getting outside their home to do activity, they don’t go out as much and they can feel isolated, and not connected to the community,” Boehm said.
India McCanse, volunteer, touched on this aspect of the event as well. McCanse has participated in the clean-up for four years, and this year was assigned to help out Mrs. Maglio.
“Meeting Mrs. Maglio, talking with her, taking pictures and hugging her, and listening a little bit to what it is she’s doing, it’s really terrific,” McCanse said. “It provides great meaning for our seniors, and I think it is for us, [the volunteers,] too.” McCanse said that the communal side of the clean-up is what the event is all about.
“What I love is the gathering in the morning- you’ve got all these sleepy-headed high school kids and younger getting up on a Saturday morning to do this, and I think that sort of rally we have there is really pretty special,” McCanse said. “It really is such a strong indication of our community.” Boehm added how grateful they were to the Shorewood students who come each year.
“We genuinely are thankful to all the students who take their time out to do it and the other volunteers,” Boehm said, “Without them we wouldn’t have the event, and we do realize that it does take extra effort and we really appreciate that, so we hope that they continue to come out and make those connections.”
McCanse was also grateful for all of the younger volunteers. “In some ways we’re paying this forward, and in some ways it’s just the right thing to do,” McCanse said. “I’m really proud, especially of all the young people that come out and do this.”
With the success of another Fall Clean-Up, Boehm now looks to the spring, and urges everyone to come out to the second event of the school year, on April 30.
By Lydia Anshus