Rented houses with college students intermix with traditional family homes in Bancroft Hills, a West Toledo neighborhood that borders the University of Toledo.
Yesterday a group of undergraduates spotted a quick way to tell the two types of residences apart while they trekked along Wyndhurst Road, filling garbage bags with debris during a student-sponsored community cleanup event.
Look for the signs in the yard, Seth Parsons and Emily Frumker said: signs like empty beer bottles, fast-food wrappers, and crushed plastic-foam cups.
"There are really clean yards and there are really messy yards," observed Mr. Parsons, 19, a freshman from Bryan.
"You can tell who's a student and who's not," said Miss Frumker, 21, who's from the Cleveland suburb of Mayfield Heights.
In an effort to foster better town-gown relations and extend a big "Thank You" to the community, about 200 UT students volunteered the better part of their morning and afternoon yesterday painting houses, cleaning yards, distributing clothing, and helping to plant gardens.
They called the day their "BIG Event," a take-off of a similar project at Texas A&M University now heralded as the largest one-day, student-run service project in the country.
"With college students having a party reputation, events like these show that we are willing to give back to the community because we're part of the community as well," said UT junior Aaron Dau, 20, of Belleville, Mich., who is president of Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity.
More than 20 of Mr. Dau's fraternity brothers took part in yesterday's event, with about half of them collecting rubbish and the others painting the front porch of a family's house on Wyndhurst Road.
"It's a godsend to us," said thankful homeowner Carol Gamber, explaining how she and her husband are renovating the interior but hadn't had time to address the porch, which badly needed new white paint.
Other participants sorted and distributed clothes at the Cherry Street Mission and helped organize spring planting at Toledo Botanical Garden.
Seven members of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity were among those collecting litter in Bancroft Hills.
The young men filled several garbage bags apiece in their first two hours. Beer and liquor bottles and food wrappers made up the majority of the trash, they said.
"There were some party houses where their whole yard was covered with bottles," said Jake Whately, 19, of Plymouth, Mich.
How could college students be so messy?
"They're used to their parents cleaning up after them, and now there's no one to clean up after them," said Ben Kinch, 19, also of Phi Kappa Psi, whose members must perform 30 hours of community service a semester and are assigned cleanup chores around their fraternity house.
"I think a lot of college students are still immature and don't want to pick up after themselves," agreed Sarah Clark, 20, a junior from Toledo, as her group prepared to cross from the cleaned side of Wyndhurst to the side with still untouched yards.
Miss Frumker said that early on they encountered an older woman picking stray litter from her property.
"She said 'good for you,' she does it herself most of the time," Miss Frumker said.
All told, the day's participants filled 50 garbage bags, said event director Matt Rubin, a UT student.
"It was all in Bancroft Hills," he said. "It was a lot of trash."
Mr. Rubin said he considered the second annual BIG Event at UT a success and hopes the project will continue to expand each year.
"In the next few years we hope to have thousands of students and faculty participate," he said.
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