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Thursday, May 13, 2021

“Do Good in Your Neighborhood” event builds student, community bonds

By Joshua DeJong

 

Hornets, thorns and rain couldn’t stop Western students and Bellingham locals from getting together to clean up a local park and garden Saturday, Sept. 30.

At the “Do Good in Your Neighborhood” event, volunteers helped prepare a Happy Valley neighborhood community garden for the winter and remove invasive plants from Harriet Spanel Park.

The event was hosted by Western’s Campus Community Coalition, which aims to incorporate students into the greater Bellingham community.

Julia Burns, Campus Community Coalition and New Student Program Initiatives coordinator, said events like this help to create a positive relationship between the students and community members.

“The idea [is] to get neighbors and students, who are short-term and long-term neighbors together, meeting each other and connecting,” Burns said.

She said the benefits of the relationships built create an environment where students and community members can go to one another when in need.

Maeve Pickus, a Huxley graduate student with the Learning Environment Action Discovery (LEAD) program, said that events like this help connect undergraduate students at Western with service learning opportunities.

Pickus said this was a good opportunity for those living next to campus to volunteer in local parks. It also helps to educate students about their backyard, the plants that grow here and human impact on the environment, she said.

“It’s great to see a university connecting with the community and doing things,” Pickus said. “We are a resource of 15,000 young, energetic people that can put their hands to good use.”

Bellingham Parks Volunteer Coordinator Rae Edwards said one of the main goals was to help remove invasive species of plants at Harriet Spanel Park. Some of these species kill other plant life around them and others were covered in thorns. Volunteers also battled angry hornets after accidentally disturbing a nest.

“Herb Robert or Stinky Bob is a [type of] geranium that is allelopathic, which means it sends chemicals throughout its roots to kill other plants,” said Edwards. “If that isn’t enough they can also throw their seeds 15 feet. They are killing and throwing and killing and throwing.”

Food grown in the Happy Valley community garden is donated to the Bellingham Food Bank.

Senior Paige Donald helped pick fruits and vegetables out of the garden, as well as help prepare it for this upcoming winter.

“I really like the fact that the tomatoes we picked are going to a food bank to donate,” Donald said. “I like that we are able to not just grow things, but also donate them to let others prosper.”

This event is one of many the Campus Community Coalition and AS Environmental Sustainability Program do to unite Western and the greater Bellingham community.

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