Cory Kiesz, custodial supervisor (left); Adam Dawson, resident director of the interest house community (center); and Carlos Ruiz, assistant custodial supervisor, load the college’s custodial van with one type of care package after another from Whitman students for community members.
Cory Kiesz, custodial supervisor (left); Adam Dawson '16, resident director of the interest house community (center); and Carlos Ruiz, assistant custodial supervisor, load the college’s custodial van with one type of care package after another from Whitman students for community members.

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Photography by Jake Barokas '18

Kiesz carries a handful of the hundreds of plastic bags of practical goods that Whitman students donated during move-out week in May.Hundreds of Whitman students continued a beneficent tradition by donating thousands of pounds of usable essentials to area charitable organizations during move-out week in May.

From bedding to kitchenware, from clean clothes to packaged food, mounds of critical items amassed for the local YWCA, Blue Mountain Action Council Food Bank, St. Vincent de Paul Society, Goodwill, Blue Mountain Humane Society, Helpline social services and Better Together mentorship of families in debt, among other sites.

Students from Whitman's 20 residence halls and interest houses also gave away—instead of throwing away—other entries on wish lists such as shoes, toys, feminine products and school supplies, said Liz Clagett '15, resident director of Prentiss Hall and one of two coordinators of the mindfulness, now in its eighth year under the auspices of Residence Life and Housing.

"The YWCA, for example, was in particular need of laundry detergent," she explained, "so we were able to really help them out with that, especially since they accept half-full bottles, which our residence halls have a lot of at the end of the academic year."

Ruiz shoulders a generous burden.

YWCA Executive Director Anne-Marie Zell Schwerin '85 also appreciated the contribution of sheets. "We have only twin beds here. Having sheets for them is something we've been working on for the past year. We want two sets, one to use and one in reserve, for our 31 beds, 13 in our women’s shelter, and 18 in our family shelter," she said. That the sheets match proved an additional gift because "they’re another way to make people feel good about themselves."

Clagett and co-coordinator Adam Dawson '16, resident director of the interest house community, placed six large cardboard boxes, 18" x 18" x 27" and divided into different categories (no furniture), in each hall. Cory Kiesz, custodial supervisor, and Carlos Ruiz, assistant custodial supervisor, joined them to collect donations every other day and stuff them in plastic bags for transport.

"It's hard to say how much was donated this year because we donated multiple van loads every time we made a pickup, which we did four times,” Clagett said. 

"Halls like Prentiss, Anderson, and Jewett had a ton of donations. Each of those halls filled up at least half a van, which fit probably 30 large plastic trash bags full, each pickup day. So across all the halls, and all four days of pickup, we're talking hundreds of bags of donations."

Adam Dawson '16, resident director of the interest house community, and Liz Clagett '15, resident director of Prentiss Hall, co-coordinators of this year's move-out week donation drive, display some of the provisions. Photo by Jake Barokas '18

That doesn't surprise Nancy Tavelli, associate dean of students and director of Residence Life and Housing. "Whitman students are incredibly generous," she said. "There's a long culture of pitching in" with their time and, in this instance, with their possessions.

Clagett concluded: "We did our best to take donations to the place where they would have the most impact. For example, because of a partnership between the YWCA and Goodwill, the YWCA was able to take what they could use and re-donate what they couldn't use to Goodwill in exchange for vouchers that YWCA clients can use at Goodwill stores."