Moving out at the end of the school year can be a bit of a frenzy for students, especially those who have a lot of stuff in their dorm rooms. At the end of the spring semester in 2017, Renee Byrd, digital printing and mailing specialist of printing and mailing services, was helping students move out of the dorms when she noticed that a lot was going to waste.
“I’ve seen over the years the dumpsters outside overflowing with stuff that could easily be donated to our community,” Byrd said.
Byrd has worked at UP for over five years in Printing and Mailing Services, and began working as a move-out volunteer a few years ago. After seeing how much was going to waste during move out season in 2017, Byrd wanted to find a way to get more donations from the dorms back into the community.
Byrd started a campaign called “Donate with Dignity” where students can bring food, clothing and household items to donation bins set up in their dorm lobbies during move-out. Just last year, Byrd and other volunteers collected 1,700 pounds of food and 4,000 pounds of clothing to be donated to organizations such as The Sunshine Division, Holy Cross Pantry, Vietnam Veterans of America and the Roosevelt Closet. UP has been partners with these organizations for years, and Byrd works to make sure that these donations run smoothly and that students are careful about what to donate and how.
“We call it ‘Donating with Dignity: being mindful of what you donate,’” Byrd said. “If you’re not gonna wear it because it’s worn out and torn, don’t put it in the donation. Throw it away. Be mindful of using the recycling bins, and all the other resources available.”
UP has partnered with the Sunshine Division for many years, an organization run through the Portland Police Department that aims to help low income families gain access to food and clothing. The Sunshine Division places barrels in the dorms during dead week, with signage indicating where you can donate clothes or unopened food items.
They don’t take bedding or household appliances like microwaves or mini fridges, but Byrd has worked to donate those type of items to the Vietnam Veterans of America. UP also donates food to the Holy Cross Pantry and donates clothing to Roosevelt’s Closet.
“We were able to donate 59 pounds of food last year to Holy Cross, which was really cool,” Byrd said. “We’re really excited to be able to help in our community that way.”
Clothing is either donated to the Sunshine Division or to Roosevelt’s Closet, a program run through Roosevelt High School where low income families are given access to lightly-used clothing for their teenagers.
“The Roosevelt Closet is very important,” Mary Scroggins, a a colleague of Byrd’s in Printing and Mailing Services who also volunteers with move out, said. “There’s a lot of people that don’t have the means to get newer clothes, so being able to bring that, that’s huge to those high school kids.”
Byrd and Scroggins also work to ensure that whatever the Sunshine Division, Vietnam Veterans, Holy Cross Pantry or Roosevelt’s Closet cannot take, goes to Goodwill. The two volunteers even drive the donations there themselves.
“I want to let students know that what they do donate makes a huge difference in the community,” Byrd said. “Not just keeping stuff out of the landfill but locally as well. It makes a huge impact.”
The Sunshine Division will begin putting donation barrels in the dorms on April 26, and will have four different pickups on April 29, May 1, May 3 and May 6.
Byrd will soon be putting up posters in each dorm indicating which barrels are for food, clothing, household goods and trash.
“I think we can do better,” Byrd said. “As a university, we can do better. I would really love for the students to be more mindful and donate.”
Colette Clark is a reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.