AUSTIN, Texas—A desire to “reach out and make a difference” is bringing together 2,000 to 3,000 student volunteers from The University of Texas at Austin in a massive one-day project on Feb. 19 to beautify and revitalize sections of the East Austin community.
Project 2000 will take the volunteers to work in three shifts alongside residents in an area of about eight city blocks near East Cesar Chavez. Martin Junior High School, 1601 Haskell St., will serve as the project headquarters, said Glen Baumgart, coordinator of the University Volunteer Center. He said the students will be cleaning abandoned lots, demolishing old sheds, painting over graffiti, landscaping and converting empty lots into pocket parks that can be enjoyed by neighborhood residents.
The volunteers include students from campus resident hall floors, various student organizations and even a quickly formed bunch of students who decided to call themselves “Just a Bunch of Girls,” said Baumgart.
The 2000 Project is sponsored by the UT Austin Volunteer Council, which is comprised mostly of leaders from various student service and other campus organizations. Project organizers also work closely with the Keep Austin Beautiful campaign.
“Volunteerism is something these students just want do. That’s part of the personality of this generation. I think they really want to reach out and make a difference,” Baumgart said in describing why so many students volunteered for this project.
“Last year, the name was Project 1,000 because our goal was to get 1,000 people out. Instead, we had about 2,200 to 2,400 people show up. That’s about 1,000 people who showed up without even having signed up. We were completely surprised. It was wonderful,” he said. The students worked side-by-side to enhance the landscaping at the Rosewood Apartment complex owned by the city of Austin, he said.
Baumgart noted that recently the efforts of last year’s UT Austin volunteers were recognized when U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett presented Project 1000 with Keep Austin Beautiful’s Community Improvement Award. Companies like Home Depot have offered to donate materials for the clean-up and renovation project but additional donations such as volunteer T-shirts, shovels, rakes and other hand tools also would be helpful, he said.
This year, the students will be transported by Capitol Metro buses from UT Austin’s Littlefield Fountain to the project site in three shifts, with the first shift starting at 9 a.m. and the last shift ending at 4 p.m. The project headquarters, Martin Junior High School, also will be the site of a community fair on Feb. 19. Various agencies will provide a health fair as well as a career fair to help residents with resumes and discus job skills, he said.
Baumgart said UT Austin student coordinators have been working with neighborhood associations and churches to determine where volunteer work is needed.
“The neighborhood associations invited us to come in. The community wants it, and that’s important to the students,” said Baumgart.
For additional information about Project 2000, contact Baumgart at (512) 232-2930 or visit web site address http://www.utvolunteer.org.