Volunteers to ‘Beautify Bennington’
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | April 19,2013
BENNINGTON — A pair of AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers, the town’s downtown promotion organization, Bennington College and local student ambassadors have come together to organize an event later this month that will bring more than 100 volunteers together to clean up the downtown and celebrate young people.
Veronica Ariel and Nicole Rau, who work from Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, said their goal was to find something that would allow for a local celebration of Global Youth Service day, but the idea expanded rapidly.
“This is the first project that we’ve really done that everyone has jumped on board and helped it grow tremendously. There’s been so much support for the youth in this community and this project in general which is great to see,” Rau said.
Global Youth Day, which is organized by Youth Service America, is celebrated in more than 100 countries but as of Wednesday, the only event in Vermont is the local “Beautify Bennington” day.
Young people will come together at 12:30 p.m. April 27 at TD Banknorth parking lot at the intersection of Main and School streets. They will be divided into different areas of the downtown and sent out at 1 p.m. to clean up, rake and “beautify” Bennington, Ariel said.
Volunteers are encouraged to wear green and white.
The town of Bennington will support the event by donating supplies and allowing a gathering outside of the town offices at 4 p.m. when the cleanup is over. A resolution, supporting Global Youth Day and the local effort, written by students from the Southwest Vermont Career Development Center, is expected to be read at the “after-party,” which will also have music and food.
The youth ambassadors, who are members of Bennington’s Alliance for Community Transformations, will be recruiting teenagers to participate and several Mount Anthony Union-based clubs are already pledged to participate.
Samantha Tymchyn, the residential area coordinator for Bennington College, oversees and plans Bennington Achieving Community Through Service, or Bennington ACTS. Tymchyn said it was a campuswide service day through which students have participated in many different ways.
This school term, however, Tymchyn said, she is trying to attract at least 100 students just for the Beautify Bennington day.
“We’re up on this big hill so sometimes it’s a little difficult to interact with the town as much as we’d like but this day is all about Bennington students going out and doing something good for the town,” she said.
The Vermont Arts Exchange is painting a number of small rocks to look like ladybugs which will be placed around the downtown. The young volunteers can collect the rocks and trade them for prizes at the gathering, according to John Shannahan, executive director of the Better Bennington Corp.
Shannahan, who leads the organization dedicated to promoting the downtown, said the BBC got involved after being asked to consider an Earth Day project. The project was attractive because it fell on a date between Earth Day on April 22 and Vermont Green Up Day on May 4 when people were planning service and beautification projects, he said.
“(The downtown merchants) are thrilled that it’s happening and it’s perfect timing because after the winter, all the sands still on the sidewalks and streets and curbs and litter. It just needs it and it’s just before the tourist season starts and Mayfest and everything. Everything is just perfectly timed,” he said.
Rau said students of all ages are invited to participate but those younger than 13 should be accompanied by an adult. Ariel, who said the project was supported by a grant from Stewart’s Shops, said participants were also being asked to bring their own water bottles which she pointed out was “greener” than using paper cups for the water which will be provided.