Madeline Benoit didn't mind getting a little dirty Friday afternoon clearing brush around Dixon Creek at the corner of Beca Avenue and 16th Street.
"This isn't hard at all," the Oregon State University freshman said. "I've pulled a ivy before. We did a lot of ivy pulls when I was in high school for National Honor Society."
Benoit was one of nearly 1,000 volunteers from who tackled 98 community service projects across Benton County County on Friday as part of the United Way's Day of Caring.
This year's event had more than 15 sponsors and some new participants: For the first time, OSU participated in the annual event. More than 600 students and staff members, wearing orange shirts, turned out to help with the projects.
"The students are a great resource," said Jennifer Moore, the executive director of the United Way of Benton & Lincoln counties. "They allow us to increase the scope of this event by taking on more projects."
After a rally to kick off the event, at Parker Plaza in front of Reser Stadium, morning volunteer shifts began at 8:30 a.m. and went to 11:30. Afternoon shifts started at 1:30 p.m. and ended at 4:30. Some projects lasted all day.
OSU sophomore Anjali Menon worked the morning shift of a car wash at Hollywood Video on Northwest Fourth Street with four other students and two OSU staff members. Despite having to get up earlier than she was used to, Menon said it was worth it.
"I'm having a great time," Menon said. "It's really nice to be able to give back to Corvallis. I have lived here for two years and the city has done so much for us."
Last year, volunteers completed 44 projects. The help of the OSU volunteers enabled the United Way of Benton County to get involved with more projects and double its volunteer force.
Traditionally the Day of Caring has been held the second or third week in September, before most OSU students are back in town. That made it difficult for the university to get involved. Earlier this year, however, Moore began working with United Way board member Kris Winter, who also is the director of new student programs and family outreach at OSU. A committee was then formed to bring the two groups together.
OSU sent out mass e-mails to students advertising the event, and recruited freshmen during a new student picnic last week in the Memorial Union Quad and during freshman orientation this week. And judging by Friday's turnout, it was a perfect match for all sides involved.
Billy Biondi and his wife Jane Menezes' backyard runs along Dixon Creek. They recently found out they own part of the creek but were overwhelmed by the amount of work it took to maintain the area.
So they eagerly accepted help from the members of Corvallis Sustainability Coalition's water action team and the three OSU students who helped with the Dixon Creek project. Menezes even fueled the young volunteers with cookies and muffins.
And how are the students working out? "They have been great," Menezes said. They are younger and have more energy. Them helping us has inspired us to get started on this mess."
Raju Woodward covers Benton County education. He can be reached at 758-9526 or email@example.com.