Ball State student volunteers spent their Saturday morning making a difference.
A group of 27 students loaded onto buses with Student Voluntary Services (SVS) on Sept. 10 and teamed up with Muncie Clean & Beautiful for the 10th Annual White River Cleanup, sponsored by the Stormwater Management Department.
The White River Cleanup happens every year in September and is a statewide public service event stretching most of the entirety of the White River, according to munciesanitary.org. People come together from Delaware, Hamilton, Monroe, Madison and Morgan counties.
Each year volunteers walk the bank, river and land removing trash from and around the river.
Larissa McFarland, SVS program coordinator, was one of the leaders of the cleanup this year and has been involved in the annual cleanup for the past three years.
“The first year I came out here, I didn’t like it, to be honest. I did not realize how dirty it could be. I know it’s a cleanup but honestly, I just expected to pick up little things like sticks, but I realized just how much people just disrespect nature and it upset me,” McFarland said. “That experience had me fired up and motivated me to do it ever since.”
The White River Cleanup has been responsible for removing over 85,000 pounds of trash and over 600 tires from the White River in the past eight years, according to munciesanitary.org. It has drawn well over 2,425 volunteers over the years, with last year’s event bringing over 425 volunteers to Westside Park.
“I mean, that fact, that in nine years we’ve pulled thousands of pounds of trash and over 600 tires, is really important,” said Jason Dontai, a Muncie Clean & Beautiful board member. “We’re protecting our watershed. Everything here flows downstream eventually to the Mississippi River, so it’s important to do what we’re doing here.”
Not only is the cleanup a way to help clean the environment — it's also a way to protect and educate the community by showing them where drinking water comes from.
“We’re educating people that it is our drinking resource and it’s up to us to protect it,” Dontai said.
For students, the cleanup is also a great way to interact and become a part of the Muncie community.
“I thought since I never really got involved in high school, now is a good time to get involved in the community that I am a part of to make Muncie beautiful like it can be,” said freshman computer science major Cory Gialamas. “This is going to be your home for the next four plus years, so you might as well try to do your part to actually leave a mark on it instead of just being another face.”
Jacob Sliger, a junior elementary education major, believes volunteering off campus leaves an impact on the community.
“I think a lot of us come from very privileged lives and we don’t really consider what’s going on in the community around us and it’s so easy just to say, ‘Muncie is just that way and there’s nothing we can do about that,’” Slinger said. “I think learning about why Muncie is that way and then creating ways to engage and come to understanding is really, really important.”
This year’s service was a little different compared to years past.
SVS’s clean up was dedicated as a “9/11 Day of Service.”
Volunteers and SVS leaders gathered after the cleanup and held a reflection discussion in remembrance for the 15-year anniversary.
“I think that there’s not a specific tie to what to the service that we’re doing as much as just doing service,” said SVS vice president Madison Loyn. “This is an act of giving back to our community in remembrance of those who gave back to our country.”