UW-Whitewater students give back to Janesville community as part of Make A Difference Day
JANESVILLE—About 200 UW-Whitewater students in neon green shirts flocked to Janesville on Friday to help spruce up the city as part of the university's annual Make A Difference Day.
The event began in 2005, but Friday was the first time Whitewater students came to Janesville.
In the past, students spent a Friday morning and afternoon volunteering in Whitewater.
This year the university wanted to expand the event to two days and help a community other than Whitewater, said Katelyn Wurtz, a UW-Whitewater senior and member of the event's planning committee.
“Because it's a large area, it's a good place to go to,” Wurtz said. “And also, because it's so large, we felt we we'd have a lot of support.”
Rebecca Smith, Janesville assistant transit director, has been working with UW-Whitewater since the fall to plan the event.
The city was interested because the event serves as an opportunity for people to visit Janesville and to complete projects staff don't have the time to get to.
“We thought it was a wonderful opportunity to work with our region and be able to accomplish large-scale projects that we might not otherwise be able to get done in such a quick manner,” Smith said.
The 200 students and up to 65 city staff and community volunteers began work at 10:30 a.m. at several locations.
Some were downtown and on Ice Age Trail picking up litter. Others were in the Fourth Ward and Look West neighborhoods grooming terraces.
Four Phi Beta Sigma fraternity brothers were in the downtown parking garage at East Wall Street and North Parker Drive.
The students helped Barry Badertscher, of Badertscher Commercial Real Estate in Janesville, and Kyle George, of BMO Harris Bank, wash windows, and mop and sweep steps.
The entire fraternity will volunteer in Whitewater on Saturday.
The fraternity brothers volunteer in some capacity once a week, said William Fenhouse, junior and chapter president.
“It's a great opportunity,” UW-W junior DeYounte Ramsey said. “We try to go back and forth between Whitewater and Milwaukee and anywhere in between.”
George, who is chair of events for the Janesville Downtown Development Alliance, said he is thankful for the students' time in Janesville.
“This is a huge thing for Janesville,” George said. “It's a huge impact not just on the downtown but everywhere.”
At the Dawson Ball Fields, about 30 students and community volunteers groomed areas around the fields, picked up litter and painted two field fences.
Without the students' time, the fences would have remained rusted and faded, said Shelley Slapak, Janesville's recreation director.
“With one or two people, we could never get this done,” Slapak said. “As much as we can get done today in four hours, we're certainly appreciative.”
Alana Hardin, a UW-Whitewater freshman, attended as part of a sorority event with her sisters.
She's from Janesville.
“No matter what community, service is important,” Hardin said. “It's good to (see) other communities helping each other. It's all about unity.”