APO rakes neighbors’ leaves to raise money for fallen soldiers

| Staff Reporter
Sophomore Jenny Sun rakes leaves in University City on Saturday as part of an event organized by the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity. (Paula Avery | Student Life)

Sophomore Jenny Sun rakes leaves in University City on Saturday as part of an event organized by the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity. (Paula Avery | Student Life)

Washington University students sacrificed a few hours of extra sleep in an effort to mend the University’s relationship with the surrounding community and raise money for fallen officers by participating in the Great Rake Neighborhood Initiative early Saturday morning.

Hosted by community service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, the group raised more than $700 dollars for Backstoppers, a charity that provides funds to the families of fallen firefighters and police officers.

One of the main purposes of the initiative was to repair University relations with the community. University students have come under fire in recent weeks for their alleged insensitivity to the residents of surrounding neighborhoods.

“[We want to] make up for a lot of the problems they have had in that neighborhood,” said senior Jasmine Yasar, the fraternity’s vice president of service. “A lot of students sometimes on the weekends get a little rowdy, so this is a way to foster good feelings for the university between the neighbors and Wash. U.”

Student volunteers went to the Ames Place neighborhood, located minutes from the University’s main campus, to rake leaves. The fraternity (APO) provided bagels for the volunteers, as well as all necessary raking supplies.

“The University started talking to student leaders about an idea to help the neighborhoods, and so APO’s kind of running it,” Yasar said.

The students who raked asked for donations to Backstoppers.

“It’s obviously very hard if you lose someone close to you and they’re the breadwinner, it is very difficult to pay the bills and funeral costs,” Yasar said.

While coordinating the project, APO has made great efforts to collaborate with other large University organizations.

“We look to sponsor service events with other people because it’s always good to have events with other people,” Yasar said.

Representatives from many campus sororities and fraternities participated in the event. Alpha Kappa Psi (AKPsi), a co-ed business fraternity, is also one of the main participants.

“We thought this would be a worthwhile event to help out with,” said sophomore Erika Antisdale, an AKPsi member. “In the past we haven’t really done much with community service, so we’re trying to participate a little bit more and give back a little bit more, so we thought this was a good opportunity when it came by.”

Students who were involved were impressed by the collaboration among Greek groups.

“It was nice to see representatives from virtually every Greek society coming to do something nice for our community,” said sophomore Courtney Safir, an APO member and event participant.

The Ames Place neighborhood boasts 204 homes and approximately 530 trees, according to the Ames Place Neighborhood Web site. Tree upkeep is costly, and individual homeowners are responsible for the general clean up of twigs and leaves. Therefore, the decision to host a leaf-raking event was a logical one, Yasar said.

“Obviously University City has a lot of trees, and if you walk around, there’s tons of leaves everywhere out in University City. There’s a lot,” Yasar said. “Raking is also a very labor-intensive thing, and we wanted to help them out in that regard, so they can take a break on a Saturday and spend time with their family instead of laboring in their front yards.”

Participants felt that the raking would make a difference for the residents of the neighborhood.

“There was a ridiculous amount of leaves all over the entire neighborhood, so the people whose yards we raked were really grateful,” Safir said.

While raking, students wore University apparel.

“We tried to all wear Wash. U. gear so they can see that we’re actually very friendly students who like helping and we’re good neighbors,” Yasar said.

With the success of this event, APO looks forward to future success of similar efforts.

“Hopefully there will be other good neighbor initiatives in the future, and hopefully we’ll get a bigger response from other groups on campus and make this more of a continuous thing to help the nearby communities instead of being caught in the Wash. U. bubble all the time,” Yasar said.

For now, however, APO will continue its other service initiatives in the area. During an upcoming weekend, APO and the Vietnamese Student Association will coordinate an effort to help feed the homeless with Feed St. Louis.

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