Campus Currents

Many Hands
New Residential Life program lets students pitch in, give back.

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UNH glossy buckthorn
Lisa Nugent/UNH Photographic Services

Glossy buckthorn, an ornamental plant native to Europe and Asia, has been choking out the native vegetation around the Oyster River Reservoir in College Woods for decades. But when a group of 50 UNH students armed with work gloves and Weed Wrenches descended on College Woods on a warm Saturday morning in November, the invasive plant didn't stand a chance.

In groups of two and three, their work punctuated by laughter and shouts of triumph, the volunteers began yanking tall stalks of buckthorn from the ground. "It's amazing how quickly people get into it," said Steve Eisenhaure '93, '04, '06G, who manages the university's 3,500 acres of woodlands and natural areas.

The project was part of Residential Life's first Day of Service, when more than 200 student volunteers traveled to 20 sites in Durham, Dover, Portsmouth, and Lee to rake leaves, make blankets, collect food, and more.

In College Woods, Samantha Bromley '17, Alison Deyett '17, and Ben Gallo '17 struggled with one buckthorn that towered above them, and finally yanked it out of the ground together. The work was its own reward, said Bromley. "We're all pretty outdoorsy. It's nice to be out here."

UNH glossy buckthorn

At Growing Places, a nonprofit preschool and childcare center in Lee, Gilly Barbato '10 oversaw a team of 20 volunteers who were getting the school in shape for an open house. "The greatest thing is we're making a huge impact in a short amount of time," said Barbato, a residence hall director in the Upper Quad and one of the organizers of the volunteer day.

Outside, students raked leaves and heaved the piles over a playground fence. Volunteers inside the school sanded and stained wooden cubbies and painted walls. "It's a good bonding opportunity," said Jimmy Black '16, a resident assistant in Hitchcock Hall. "And it's important to give back to the community."

As for the places where they volunteered? Families in Transition in Dover estimates the students' painting work saved the nonprofit a critical $1,300 that will go instead toward housing and food assistance for clients. And in College Woods, Eisenhaure says the native hardwoods and pine trees are breathing a little easier after the students' buckthorn blitz.

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