Students give back as part of “Ultimate” experience

University students volunteered for community service projects, including community beautification and improvement and donating to local food shelters.

Cody Vanasse

University of Minnesota students gathered at TCF Bank Stadium this weekend to support their school off the football field. Sunday morning, 150 registered University students participating in the Ultimate Volunteer Experience , one of the last of this yearâÄôs homecoming events, met at the stadium before heading out into the community. The nine community projects, each led by a homecoming royalty member, included cleaning up the Marcy-Holmes and Dinkytown areas, assisting family planning services and working on invasive species on the river flats. âÄúItâÄôs a nice way to wrap up homecoming,âÄù newly-crowned homecoming queen and marketing senior Lauren Stoneberg said. âÄúThere are so many organizations on campus that spend time volunteering. ItâÄôs nice to bring them together for one experience.âÄù Coordinators spoke to different community and campus organizations to find out where student volunteers were needed before assigning work groups to tackle the projects. Project groups then spent the day at their sites cleaning up and helping out. RoundyâÄôs and Rainbow Foods moved the days of their biannual 5-day tour, which provides thousands of pounds of food and 500 dollar checks to local food shelves, to include the University as one of their stops. A RoundyâÄôs semi-truck filled with canned foods arrived at TCF Bank Stadium Sunday, along with the trucks of local food banks. Students, Rainbow Foods employees and Emergency Foodshelf Network workers helped transfer portions of the stocked truck to trucks from the shelters. RoundyâÄôs approached the University looking for a way to tie in the UniversityâÄôs homecoming with their food bank cause, spokeswoman Vivian King said âÄúIt turned out better than we imagined,âÄù King said. âÄúWe started off just trying it for one year, but we would love to continue [working with the University].âÄù Many students volunteered for the event to get out and give back, but some were also motivated by service requirements through greek life or the homecoming competitions, for which teams received points by attending the volunteer opportunity. âÄúI like the idea of [volunteering],âÄù Pi Kappa Alpha president and architecture senior Dan Johnson said. âÄúBut getting points for homecoming for it made the volunteering aspect seem more like a requirement.âÄù University faculty and staff had been working on pushing public engagement through a campus-wide clean-up the Sunday after the homecoming game, coordinator and human resources and nonprofit management senior Nick Pilger said. Faculty and staff played a large role in helping the volunteers find the work sites. âÄúThe purpose of today was to go out into the community to give back,âÄù said homecoming coordinator Molly Gale , who was hired three years ago specifically to coordinate this yearâÄôs Ultimate Homecoming. Plans for next yearâÄôs Ultimate Volunteer Experience have already begun, and the hope shared by Pilger, Gale and King is that it will be bigger and better. âÄúOur hope is that we can build on what weâÄôve created,âÄù Gale said.