Students volunteer at Tent City in Toledo

Campus Editor and Campus Editor

Though the two schools will be opponents on the football field Saturday, students from the University and the University of Toledo will work together this weekend to help those in need— particularly veterans.

Students from both schools will volunteer at Tent City, hosted by 1Matters, an annual weekend-long event in Toledo that provides services to those in need such as donations, meals and medical services. Tent City’s name comes from the tent featuring cold-weather clothes gathered from clothing drives. There are also tents for the other services provided.

In 2012, 300 volunteers provided $180,000 in food, clothing, medical and other services, according to 1matters.org.

“The big thing we’re trying to do is show [that] the BG students also support the Toledo community as well,” said University senior Holly Hemminger, who is leading the charge in recruiting students. “We’re not rivalries for everything.”

University students will mainly participate in a one-mile march from Promenade Park to Tent City to raise awareness. The walk starts at 6 p.m. and students will carpool there by 5:30, Hemminger said.

At last year’s walk, Freddie and Frieda Falcon, along with Rocky the Rocket, led the way. This year it will be led by several veterans housed by Veterans Matter, a program to ensure housing of veterans.

After the walk, students are free to stay to volunteer at the tents, Hemminger said.

Drew O’Donnel, a senior at the University of Toledo, brought the idea of volunteering at Tent City to students at the University a year ago.

“I look at BG as being in the Toledo community because it’s still so close,” O’Donnel said.

O’Donnel and Hemminger also collaborate on Bridge Club, a branch of Food for Thought that O’Donnel started at UT. Students in the club make sandwiches for the homeless of Toledo every other week.

That way, each week either UT students are making sandwiches or University students are.

The benefit for students who volunteer their time at Tent City is that they can have a firsthand experience of an issue they might not think about otherwise, said University senior Scott Brummel.

Brummel has volunteered at Tent City before, and he said what keeps him coming back is simple.

“It just seems like the right thing to do,” he said. “I’m an active member in the community and I’m spending my time doing what’s best for it.”

Every year that O’Donnel has volunteered, he spends as much time as he can talking to the people who come.

“Everyone that I met was just so inspiring,” he said. “The stories you hear from people touch your heart so much that it’s hard not to go back.”

At last year’s Tent City, Hemminger said she talked for a long time with a man about his love for his wife.

“I asked if he would give one of the scarfs in the bag to his wife,” she said. “He wouldn’t accept anything … in general he just wanted the company.”

This type of interaction is what makes volunteering at Tent City such as worthwhile experience for Hemminger.

“If you just get to talk to people, you realize they’re exactly the same as everyone else,” she said. “[The event] gets people to understand the hardships people are going through even in our own community.”

While the services provided are valuable to those in need, what most want is just someone to connect with, O’Donnel said.

“When you’re walking down the street in a downtown area … and you see someone sitting on the side of the road, no one really says, ‘Hi’ to that person,” he said. “Tent City is all about turning your head and saying, ‘Hi.’”