Freshmen Nichole Barnard and Olivia Cabanban spent part of Tuesday afternoon up to their ankles in silt, water, and mud. And they loved it.
The two were digging out a stream bed in Indianapolis’ Holliday Park as part of Bulldogs Into the Streets (BITS), the annual public-service program designed to inspire students to give back to the city where they’ll spend the next four years or more.
“I really enjoy volunteering, helping out the community around me, and learning about what needs to be done so that when I go back to Butler, I can find a connection to different places to volunteer,” said Barnard, a pharmacy major from Greenwood, Ind. “I think manual labor is good. Working up a sweat, it’s enjoyable.”
“I wanted to get involved with the community,” added Cabanban, a biology major from LaGrange, Ind., who’s interested in pre-med. “Since I’m from the Chicago area, it’s definitely a different setting being in Indianapolis. Instead of just getting involved in the Butler Bubble, I wanted to see what our community was about.”
Some 60 Butler students helped out at Holliday Park. Some dug out a stream bank that had been filling with silt. Water was jumping the banks and eroding nearby trails. Others picked up trash along the banks of the White River.
Park Manager Adam Barnes said the BITS volunteers are a huge help.
“There are only four of us who work here, so we rely heavily on volunteers to keep up with projects,” he said. “You figure 30 kids for a couple of hours, that’s 60 man-hours of work, which is more than a week’s worth of work for one of us. So it makes a big difference for the park, that’s for sure.”
Butler students worked at 17 locations, and the total number of volunteers—557—is the biggest group of participants in the program’s 19-year history, said Emily Svetanoff ’14, events coordinator for the Volunteer Center.
About 160 of the volunteers were at Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana. Some helped unload items from trucks into coolers—maybe one of the better jobs to have on a blistering hot day. Others packed up senior boxes that help supplement low-income senior citizens’ food supplies. Most put together backsacks—bags with 14 kid-friendly items that are given to children in low-income families so they’ll have enough food over the weekend.
Gleaners gives out about 10,000 backsacks each week, said Jessica Shive ’08, Gleaners’ volunteer coordinator. Shive, who was an elementary education major at Butler, taught for two years in a school where she saw how important the backsacks were to her students. When a job at Gleaners opened, she decided to join the organization, which serves more than 313,000 Hoosiers in 21 counties.
Jordan Galligan, a freshman communications major from Valparaiso, Ind., worked on the backsacks at Gleaners. He said he learned about BITS at the Activity Fair.
“One of the activity directors said, ‘Hey, you wanna come out for BITS? You get some free food, free T-shirt, and you’re helping out the community,’” Galligan said. “I said, ‘Hey, why not?’ I love to help out. It’s been a great experience.”