Freshmen take the plunge

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For the second consecutive year, members of the DePauw and Greencastle communities teamed up for the United Way of Putnam County Day of Caring.

Volunteers performed work at Camp Friend, the Humane Society of Putnam County and the Putnam County Airport.

"(The event) displays a good collaborative effort to show the community that we care," said David English, executive director for the United Way of Putnam County.

On a sunny Saturday morning, 65 freshmen stood ready to give back to the community they now call home. As they waited for the vans that would take them to their designated work site, anticipation was evident among them.

Freshman Yiting Li was eager to get acquainted with a community so radically different from her hometown of Beijing.

"As an international student, taking part in community service is a wonderful way to get to know Greencastle," Li said. "It can help me meet more people and build connections with the locals."

The volunteer sites were all three to five miles away from campus.

And members of the Greencastle community took notice of the collaborative efforts.

"This group has made a lot of progress," said Elaine Peck, a Greencastle resident. "It's amazing what can get done in a short amount of time with a group of people working together."

Participants worked together to clean up the designated sites.

They pulled weeds, cleaned animal cages and renovated a campsite.

In addition to university students, The Putnam County Youth Philanthropy Committee played a part in the service plunge.

"I think it's neat that DePauw is getting involved with beautifying the community," said Cameron Mann, a senior at Cloverdale High School and member of the committee. "The students definitely reached out to us."

Local restaurants like Papa John's and Domino's provided food for all of the volunteers.

"It is not about how many people came out to help and how many people were benefited from the service plunge, but rather what was done in order to benefit the community," English said.

Despite a nest of spiders at the humane society's animal shelter, students didn't shy away from the dirty task. They continued until the entire area was clear.

Volunteers braved some nasty thorns cleaning up the Camp Friend campground.

And, at the airport, students landscaped, basking under the rays of Indiana's summer sun.

"The immediate dedication to a one-time service project really caught me by surprise," said freshman Richard Walsh, a Bonner Scholar. "I only wish every individual in Greencastle could have experienced it. All of the sites expressed immeasurable gratitude for our work."

Walsh seemed hopeful about the continuation of community outreach, acknowledging many students who hoped to continue volunteering.

Freshman Stephanie Fernadez agreed.

"I see this as an effort to combine our community," she said. "I think DePauw could do a better job of supplying transportation to events like this all year to help the community."

Together, university students and Putnam County residents each donated four hours of their time with the goal of creating a more beautiful and ultimately, a more united, community.

By the end of the day, it was clear many felt that goal was achieved.