University of Alaska Southeast student Kean Nuttall got down and dirty while picking up litter Saturday during the second annual Day of Caring, learning firsthand how much trash is dumped along Juneau's roadsides.
"It was a humbling experience to go out and do something that no one wants to do," said Nuttall. "These kind of community service projects expose people to the issues at hand and introduce them to ways to get involved in issues that are important to them."
Cleaning at the Glory Hole, maintenance of the Boy Scout Trail, playground equipment construction at AWARE and picking up litter were just a few of the services UAS students provided during the second annual community service event. More than 100 university students, faculty and staff spread out across Juneau on Saturday to conduct a variety of service projects to help show the university's commitment to the community.
Nuttall said the experience helped him realize the significance of Juneau's litter problem and inspired him to get more involved with the issue.
"Come out and pick up litter for two hours and really get a sense of how much litter is out there, and maybe you'll think twice before littering or even tossing that cigarette butt out the window," he said. "I want to make sure Juneau gets more trash cans, because every time I take a walk I'm forced to look at all the litter and everything else that's been tossed along the roadside."
UAS Student Body President Mark Graves said the Day of Caring was "a chance for the students and the university to bridge the gap between the university and the community."
Graves spent the majority of Saturday at the AWARE shelter, helping construct playground equipment.
"All the projects we did helped organizations accomplish goals that they might not have been able to accomplish," he said. "We had a good day. Personally, it makes me feel a little more like a piece of the community."
The American Red Cross, Perseverance Theatre, Juneau Youth Theatre, Southeast Alaska Food Bank and the Salvation Army also benefited from the day of service projects.
"I think the university benefited because we got out there and we let the community know that we're out here for more than just learning, and we're willing to help out the community in any way we can," said Dave Langilotti, who volunteered at AWARE. "I definitely have a sense of gratification from it."
During two hours of litter patrol, about 20 UAS students gathered 380 pounds of garbage and recyclable material from the roadsides. Nuttall said the Day of Caring is important for the students and the community.
"I think it's important to establish a sense of community for those folks who are going to be living here for the next four years," he said. "It's the university's responsibility to make students feel at home and also so they can make a difference in the community with the issues that they feel are important."
Langilotti said he hopes that the Day of Caring will be a long-lasting partnership between the community and the university.
"I think it's something that can help make Juneau better, because even though we're doing the little jobs, someone has to do them," he said. "Because the little jobs make the biggest difference."
Nuttall said the time he spent picking up litter will remain fresh in his mind.
"I think volunteering can be one of the worst jobs you'll ever have, but it can be the most rewarding," he said. "Volunteering helps create better citizens."
Eric Morrison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.