Students and staff clean for Vermont

  Tropical Storm Irene may be a thing of the past for some people, but for those living in many parts of Vermont the storm is still part of their daily lives. The first annual Vermont Cleanup Day took place on Saturday Oct. 22.  The event was designed to encourage volunteers from across the state to help victims of Tropical Storm Irene recover and get their homes in order for the winter, according to the Vermont Cleanup Day website.  Though many students at UVM are not native Vermonters, members of the UVM community still participated in the efforts to help communities across the state. “We had over 80 students, faculty and staff participate last Saturday,” said Danielle Jenkins, a senior and Irene outreach coordinator. “We had several volunteers sign up as individuals, but lots of groups turned out as well.  The groups with the highest participation were the Black Student Union, the gymnastics team and the Rubenstein [school].”                   Jenkins said she viewed UVM’s participation efforts as a success, especially given how quickly it was put together.  “The communities we worked with expressed sincere gratitude, and they were genuinely impressed with how enthusiastic our volunteers were,” Jenkins said.  On Saturday, UVM volunteers were sent to three separate communities across Vermont. Rochester, West Woodstock and Bethel all received UVM assistance, she said.  The days’ activities included working with individual homeowners and along riverbanks in Rochester, ruined insulation and debris removal in West Woodstock and silt removal at Peavine Park in Bethel, Jenkins said.   Professor Jay Ashman took a bus with 25 people from the University to Peavine Park.  “We dug out around trees, picnic tables and benches so that the heavy equipment could come in.  We also cleared leaves and brush from the park,” Ashman said. The park is one that many people in the Bethel community use for a variety of events, he said.  “A lot of weddings, birthday parties and graduation events [take place in the park],” Ashman said.  “I had been looking for a way to help with Irene recovery efforts and it was really nice to be able to do it in the company of other UVM people.” Some students said they were unable to participate in the event but that they appreciated the efforts of those who did. “I’m impressed by the amount of people who want to do something to help,” junior John Mark Brigham said.  “I give my support to those who are helping, but being at college and not having a car makes it hard for me to participate.”  The transportation concern seemed to be a common issue among students.  “I received a bunch of e-mails about Vermont Cleanup Day, but I don’t think there was enough information about transportation in regard to this event,” junior Mike Webb said.  “I think the lack of cars really de-motivated people from helping. ” Because interest in Vermont Cleanup Day was so well received, more days are being planned to help further the recovery efforts for those affected by Tropical Storm Irene. “Right now we are in the planning stages for two more days of service on Nov. 12 and Nov. 16,” Jenkins said. “Registration will go live online early next week. Everyone should keep an eye on their inbox for more information.”