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Students turn over a new leaf with raking

Joe Piarulli | Monday, October 31, 2005

When the leaves started falling on South Bend, nearly 200 Notre Dame students were there to pick them up as part of Turning Over a New Leaf, a service project that helped disabled and elderly community members with their yard work.

The event, organized by Circle K, Badin Hall and the Classes of 2007 and 2008, went from 9 a.m. until noon Saturday.

Volunteers congregated at the Robinson Community Center, a 15-minute walk from Main Circle, where free breakfast was provided. The volunteers then split into groups of about eight.

“[The Robinson Center has] a strong connection to the community, so they went out and found about 50 elderly, disabled homeowners that needed students to come do yard work for them, mostly raking leaves,” vice president of service for Circle K Adrienne Ruffner said.

Most of the homes were within several blocks of the Robinson Center, so the residents are not far removed from the University.

“Everybody was encouraged to knock on the door and talk to the [disabled or elderly] person. A lot of times people are shut in and they don’t really get to see students,” said Ruffner, who is also an Observer reporter.

“When we got to our sites we talked with the owners of the homes … all the students were so positive,” junior Anne Brusky said.

This was the fifth year for Turning Over a New Leaf, and it is one of the biggest service projects of the fall.

“We spent a few weeks planning it,” vice president of membership for Circle K Mike Bogacz said. “We try to find opportunities for large-scale projects on Saturdays. We wanted to try something different, something we could get a lot of people involved in.”

In fact, so many people got involved this year that not everyone could get in on the raking.

“I actually didn’t end up doing [any raking] because we didn’t have enough rakes,” Bogacz said. “It was no big deal as long as all the members got to do it.”

The groups fell only a few rakes short of accommodating everyone, but as it turned out, volunteers did more than just raking due to a lack of fallen leaves, which was the only real drawback of the event, organizers said.

“I’d say the only problem would be that the leaves aren’t falling as early as they usually do because of the warmer weather, but I think that people found plenty of other yard work to do, like pulling weeds and straightening up around people’s yards,” Ruffner said.

The event was about more than yard work, Brusky said. It was about making sure no one in the area feels left out.

“Any time students are visible in the community, that is important,” she said.