Getting gritty for the city

USF receives an abundance of support from Tampa businesses and locals. The “Bulls” hand symbol is probably used more than the middle finger. Students and faculty can receive a discount just about anywhere with a quick flash of their USF ID. Even Publix has pictures of USF displayed on its walls. For the past 12 years, USF has been able to give back to the community by getting down and dirty with the Great American Cleanup, an annual event to help beautify the city.

“It’s a good way to get outside and do something that will benefit the community,” said Jason Castles, a graduate student who works for Volunteer USF, a sponsor of the event.

This Saturday about 60 volunteers armed with gloves and garden tools are raiding the University Area Center and Rowlette Park, two areas worthy of a landscape makeover. Participants are rolling up their sleeves to perform yardwork such as mulching, picking up trash and planting trees and shrubs.

“It’ll be hard work, but I think it’ll be something that (people will) enjoy and something that they’ll be able to say they have completed; they have accomplished something,” Castles said.

Volunteer USF and Student Government work in collaboration with a non-profit organization called Keep Hillsborough County Beautiful to coordinate the 12th Annual Great American Cleanup. Brittany Link, a sophomore majoring in marketing, is a member of Student Government who helped gather volunteers and promote the event.

“(The Great American Cleanup is) a great opportunity for Student Government to give back to the community as well as get involved with students who we may or may not see on a daily basis,” Link said. “We work really hard to serve the students, and so we’re trying to look for new ways to get out and serve with the students.”

The cleanup begins at 8 a.m., when volunteers meet in the lower level of the Marshall Center for a half-hour breakfast sponsored by Student Government. After eating, participants divide into two groups and put their gardening skills to work until noon.

“(Volunteers should) expect to join a bunch of people, have fun, get a little dirty, be outside and make a difference,” Volunteer USF Coordinator Amy Simon said.

Gloves and water are provided, but volunteers should bring sunscreen and a hat, as well as wear closed-toed shoes and clothes that can get dirty. The event is open to everyone, whether affiliated with USF or not, and individuals or organizations can still sign up to participate in the Volunteer USF office at MC 014.

“We’re trying to get people to sign up (before Saturday) just so we can have some kind of idea of how many people we’re going to have and e-mail out reminders, but you can show up day of and bring 20 friends and we’ll just be glad for the help,” Link said.

The Great American Cleanup has been successful for the past 12 years, beautifying different areas of Tampa out of gratitude for endless community support. It’s USF’s way of showing appreciation, and it only gives the school a better reputation.

“It gives (people) a chance to get involved in the community,” Castles said. “Helping out in this could be a start in doing bigger and better things. I think it’s definitely a positive thing.”

Montage Editor Jessica Hartmancontributed to this article.