As the rapidly changing circumstances of the pandemic can feel daunting, it is helpful to find the silver linings and accomplishments that have been made along the way. Along with the many things in our daily lives that have been impacted by COVID-19, waste reduction efforts have taken a hit as the use of disposable items has increased. When possible, University Facilities and Services continues to look for opportunities to reduce waste by putting discarded items into good use rather than into landfills. One such example was the donation of 2,177 pounds of abandoned student goods to benefit the Open Door Mission of Rochester.
Reflecting back to March 2020, the rise in Coronavirus cases led to the abrupt nationwide closure of college campuses and shift towards online learning. On March 12, all undergraduate students at the University were notified via email in a message from the Dean of the College, to leave campus within the next ten days. At the time, most students were away for spring break, and the instruction to move off campus within ten days was met by students making last-minute plans, such as cutting their spring break trips short or finding accommodations elsewhere off campus.
The Office of Residential Life and Housing Services (ResLife) accommodated students unable to return to campus to pick up their belongings by storing those items until a later pickup date was established. As the New York State restrictions were lifted to allow for non-essential travel, ResLife arranged for a pick-up period from June 1-15, in which students could retrieve the belongings they had left behind in the dorms. For the students who were still unable to pick up their belongings, arrangements were made to have the belongings securely packed in boxes and moved into a storage facility until students returned in the Fall 2020 semester. Throughout the process, ResLife was in contact with students and some students ultimately decided not return to collect their belongings. These belongings were then classified as abandoned. In September 2021, ResLife coordinated with Facilities Team Green and arrangements were made to donate these belongings to Open Door Mission.
A total of 2,177 pounds of items were donated to the organization from the University, including clothing, school supplies, cans of food, desk organizers, storage bins, lamps, blankets, and throw pillows. Many of the items were in excellent condition and benefitted families in need in the local community. According to Jeremey Hinz of Open Door Mission, the biggest impact came to Coldwater Women & Children Residential Home. Hinz explains, “When the families move out of the shelter into permanent housing we try and furnish their house or apartment with everything that they will need. A lot of the items we received from the dorm clean out were used to help these families to furnish and decorate their homes.” Additionally, items such as blankets and clothing, were sent to the Samaritan House Crisis Center located on Main Street. School supplies were put in backpacks and given to parents for their children’s use.
Arrangements were also made to donate approximately 150 fleece blankets that were used at the University-organized quarantine facilities. The blankets went to Rochester Refugee Resettlement Services, a local organization that provides assistance to refugees resettling in Rochester.
By donating these items instead of discarding them, the items’ life cycles were extended and were able to be used by people who needed them instead of being thrown away. Facilities Team Green is happy to work with local organizations to put items to good use whenever possible.
Written by Hanyia Ahmed, Class of 2022
Photo Courtesy of Jeremy Hinz, Left to Right: Jeremy Hinz, Isaac Twyman, and Priscilla Williams of the Open Door Mission of Rochester