Assistan Arts & Assistant Features Editor
UNC Asheville’s Greenfest Campus Work Day creates an opportunity for students to acquire new skills while simultaneously helping their community.
Jackie Hamstead, an environmental specialist and organizer of Greenfest Campus Work Day, said the event is the longest standing aspect of Greenfest.
“Everything else kind of changes,” she said. “This is the longest standing event that we’ve had on the Greenfest calendar.”
She said Campus Work Day allows students to give back to their school in an interesting new way.
“I think it’s cool for students to be able to interact with faculty and staff outside of that classroom setting. I also think it’s nice because we get to give back to the grounds’ department, because they work really hard to make this campus a place that actually serves the community.” Hamstead said.
Hamstead said UNCA’s campus could use all the help it can get.
“I think it’s nice to give back to them, especially since we have one of the lowest ratios of grounds staff to manage acres in the UNC system. I feel like they do more with less, so it’s nice that we can help them out a couple times a year,” Hamstead said.
Hamstead said this year’s Campus Work Day focused on the trails behind Founder’s Hall.
“It got a little bit washed out during the rains, so we’re fixing it up, remulching it. We’re also digging out a silt pond to catch some of the run-off, so it doesn’t go down to the Botanical Gardens,” Hamstead said.
Campus Work Day is also a great way to gain unique abilities and experiences.
“In a self-serving way, I think you feel better about yourself when you engage, if you fulfill your civic responsibility. I also think that people learn a lot,” Hamstead said.
Hamstead said many students learned practical skills about landscaping and caring for an environment.
“I think it’s a nice way to get outside and get your hands dirty while giving back to the campus and enjoying others on your campus in a unique way,” Hamstead said.
Mitch Griffin, 19, works as a groundskeeper at UNCA.
“My grandfather actually retired from here about six years ago. I was coming with him on campus since I was real little,” Griffin said.
During this year’s Campus Work Day, Griffin’s duties include supervising the less experienced student volunteers while they work.
“We’re trying to keep the path from washing out. We’ve got a couple little erosion issues and they’re currently putting in some water breaks down on the trail,” Griffin said.
Griffin said he enjoys getting to know the volunteers that join the grounds staff for Work Day.
“It’s a learning opportunity. It’s amazing how many people come and don’t really know what to do, but they’re interested in learning,” Griffin said.
Bill Cochrane, UNCA ground supervisor and horticulturist, agrees with Griffin. He says Campus Work Day this year involved some planting, but mostly natural conservation.
“The rest is the maintenance and care, taking care of weeds and erosion. This project here is actually erosion control, which is going to help us with water quality and people’s safety on the paths and being with our neighbors at the Botanical Garden, being good stewards to them,” Cochrane said.
Cochrane said he greatly appreciates the assistance that Campus Work Day brings to the grounds staff.
“It helps us because we get a lot of hands on labor, which for a project like this, with two or three of us it would take three or four hours and we did it 45 minutes. So more hands make light work,” Cochrane said.
Cochrane said he thinks Work Day provides benefits to the student volunteers as well as the grounds staff.
“It’s good and it lets a lot of people that don’t get experience outside working in landscape an opportunity to see what goes on daily. We’re not a farming country anymore, so it’s not as prevalent as it used to be,” Cochrane said.
Cochrane said the volunteers worked hard and stepped out of their comfort zones.
“It’s your home away from home, so it’s learning to be a good steward of the resources around us. It’s also a good way to build friendships and relationships outside of our normal groups. It kind of us helps us step out of our boundaries a little bit,” Cochrane said.
Cochrane also said the grounds staff enjoyed meeting the student volunteers.
“It gives our crew the ability to meet the students and to see who we’re doing the work for and it just allows us to have a little motivation to say, ‘Hey, we want to make this college experience the best we can for the students and their families.’”