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Raking with NIU students' help

Northern Illinois Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting member Leo Berrun uses a leaf blower during the Rake Across DeKalb event Saturday in DeKalb.
Northern Illinois Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting member Leo Berrun uses a leaf blower during the Rake Across DeKalb event Saturday in DeKalb.

DeKALB – There were so many volunteers for the Rake Across DeKalb event Saturday morning that NIU didn’t have enough rakes for all of them.

Three hundred seven students, divided into 50 teams, participated in the event, said Destiny McDonald, assistant director for community service. All of them represented an organization such as a fraternity or sorority.

The school provided 90 rakes for students when they met at the Holmes Student Center. Students were told to borrow rakes from residents whose yards they were raking.

The number of students who participated doubled from last year, McDonald said.

It was the third year for Rake Across DeKalb. McDonald said the event has become popular because of the students’ interest.

“Students wanted something similar to NIU Cares Day in the fall because they didn’t want to give back just once a year,” McDonald said. “They wanted to give back twice, or more if they can.”

For Sigma Lambda Sigma member Samantha Alexander, that couldn’t have been truer. Alexander volunteered at a banquet Friday and was also planning to volunteer at Petco for a food drive on the same day she was raking leaves.

Sigma Lambda Sigma is a service sorority. Active members are required to volunteer 35 hours a semester.

Alexander said volunteering is important to her and she likes doing it. She was raking the lawn of an elderly man who has back problems.

“I live with my grandparents, so it’s nice that we help them because, when I’m home, I do this for my grandparents,” Alexander said. “I’d want someone helping them if I couldn’t do it.”

Helping Hands, a volunteer organization at NIU, also raked Saturday. Vice President Ana Bouziotis said the group already has volunteered at Hope Haven and YMCA this semester.

“It’s good to just get out,” Bouziotis said. “Get up in the morning and go around and actually do something instead of just sleeping all day.”

Helping Hands President Annastazia Camarena said she volunteers so much that it’s hard to keep track of how many volunteering hours she has so far. Camarena already has volunteered at the DeKalb Park District, Hope Haven and a haunted house this semester.

The residents whose lawns were raked appreciated the work the students did. It was Jean Gastiger’s second time participating in Rake Across DeKalb.

“I cannot tell you how wonderful it was to hear the doorbell ring and to see five leaf-raking elves in the front,” she said.

For Phi Kappa Theta member Harvey Martin, volunteering helps get rid of the stigma that fraternities have. His fraternity has served dinners to elderly people, conducted tours for incoming freshman and helped Toys for Tots.

“It shows that Greeks do something else besides partying,” he said. “We show the community that we’re a part of this university, too.”

The volunteering also comes full circle for the volunteers.

“I love helping out people,” Sigma Lambda Sigma member Alyssa Marcum said. “I like seeing smiles on their faces ... Just knowing that they’re grateful for everything we do. It makes you feel good.”

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