Rowan students help with chores to thank Glassboro residents

Rowan students Joshua Darpino (pushing the wheelbarrow) and Lawrence Robinson (right) clean up Kelli Sandifer's yard. CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer
Rowan students Joshua Darpino (pushing the wheelbarrow) and Lawrence Robinson (right) clean up Kelli Sandifer's yard. CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer
Posted: April 15, 2014

GLASSBORO Nearly 900 Rowan University students fanned out across Glassboro on Sunday for the "Back to the Boro" neighborhood cleanup in what has become an annual outpouring of sweat equity - and appreciation - for the town that hosts them nine months of the year.

On a gorgeous, summerlike day ideal for sunbathing and otherwise loafing, students from 150 campus groups instead helped residents with household chores, cleaned along roads, and put in time at community centers.

"They get to see who we really are," Joe Niccoli, 20, a criminal justice major, said as he scrubbed William and Rita Capelli's bathroom.

The Capellis welcomed six members of the men's volleyball team to their home of 53 years on Cornell Road, where the volunteer work also included touching up a shed, moving patio furniture, and washing windows.

"The students treat us wonderful here," said William Capelli, 79, who lives next to a house inhabited by six Rowan students.

The Rowan University Student Government Association started "Back to the Boro" in 2009, inspired by the "Big Event," a similar effort at Texas A&M University. With the help of Rowan's Office of Service Learning, Volunteerism & Community Engagement, the event is intended to promote friendly relations between students and the larger Glassboro community.

On Sunday, that translated to 94 projects. For Rowan's largely commuter student body, it was a rare chance to interact with residents.

"Overall, it's very organized and it's a very good way to get a lot of houses done," Matt Howarth, 23, a health-promotion and fitness-management major, said as he trimmed shrubs at the Villanova Road home of Gloria Ross, 83. For Ross, this "Back to the Boro" event was the first time anyone had cleaned out the garden shed since her husband died in 2002. With the possibility of her moving next year, she can better prepare the house for sale, she said.

Although most participating homeowners are elderly, Kelli Sandifer, 32, engaged students from Cinema Workshop, the filmmaking club at Rowan, to move pine tree branches that fell after one of this winter's brutal ice storms.

"It was a rough winter," Sandifer said, indicating where falling branches damaged the sides of her house and garage on Dickinson Road. Next door is a house occupied by several male Rowan students.

"They aren't bad," she said. "They all came around and introduced themselves, gave me their phone numbers."

Ermelinda Sgro, 84, doesn't get any trouble from her university-related neighbor: Rowan's president, Ali A. Houshmand.

And she's a big fan of "Back to the Boro," of which she's a repeat customer.

"I always get a fantastic group," Sgro said of the students who raked leaves, washed windows, and polished kitchen cabinets. This year, her volunteers were from the science fiction/fantasy club.

Justin Malamet, 19, an accounting and finance major, was also back for a repeat performance Sunday, having participated in "Back to the Boro" last year.

The thought that motivated him, he said, was this:

"We'd be giving back to the community more by doing it ourselves."


abrust@phillynews.com

301-503-5429

@ameliabrust

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