Allegheny Employees Act Together to Prepare Campus for Arrival of Students

On a steamy morning in late July, Tiffany Hrach immersed herself in her hot and grimy work —- pulling weeds and dead vegetation from the gardens surrounding the Prayer and Meditation House on the Allegheny College campus.

“I want to make the campus look pretty for the return of our students,” said Hrach, a 2001 Allegheny graduate who now works as the office manager in the College’s Maytum Learning Commons and and the Office of Disability Services. “And as you can see, I don’t mind getting dirty,” she said.

Hrach wasn’t alone in her task. On this day, as part of Allegheny’s ACTogether Days, she was joined by dozens of volunteers performing various tasks across campus.

President Link, right, pulls weeds along with Kelly Wright, center, and Patti Kidd at Loomis and North Main streets. (Photos by Derek Li)
President Link, right, pulls weeds along with Kelly Wright, center, and Patti Kidd at Loomis and North Main streets. (Photos by Derek Li)

Among them was Allegheny President Hilary L. Link, who rolled up her sleeves for a variety of tasks, including weeding gardens, delivering containers of hand sanitizer to building coordinators, posting signs in campus buildings related to COVID-19 safety measures and applying a coat of paint to a room in the North Village II residence hall.

“I want to help so our campus looks as good as possible when we bring back — hopefully — students in a few weeks,” said Link as she pulled weeds from in front of the brick-framed Allegheny College sign that greets visitors at Loomis and North Main streets. “If we’re not all in on this, it’s not going to work. The return of the students is really right around the corner and we have to be ready.

“Besides,” she added, “I don’t need any excuse to get out of my living room on a beautiful, sunny day.”

Like all the volunteers who participated, the president filled out a brief health-information form and had her temperature checked before starting work. With her face covering in place and sporting a “Gators” T-shirt, she was good to go.

ACTogether Days were started in mid-July as a way for staff, faculty and administrators to take a break from their daily routines, have some fun while social distancing and helping with chores in preparation for the planned return of students in mid-August. Volunteers work for several hours at assigned tasks across campus and then enjoy a box lunch from Parkhurst Dining.

“The idea for ACTogether grew out of discussions with members of the campus community during different virtual meetings,” said Linda Wetsell, Allegheny’s chief financial officer and vice president of finance and administration. “Many understand the challenges to get the campus ready for our students and have offered to help in any way needed. Tracey Olenick, Kelly Wright, Courtney Hild, Penny Drexel and Kelly Boulton designed this venue because they understand that physical distancing does not mean social distancing. When we ACTogether, we truly make a difference.”

Patrice Newman works on the landscaping on the Allegheny College campus.
Patrice Newman works on the landscaping on the Allegheny College campus.

The ACTogether Days are scheduled to go through August 6, but coordinators are hopeful the volunteer efforts for campus beautification might extend into the fall semester, said Kelly Wright, Physical Plant office coordinator. There is much work to do, including mulching the many gardens on campus, she said.

Busy pulling weeds in gardens across campus on this day was Kirsten Peterson, a 1978 Allegheny graduate and now a member of the Gateway Pre-Professional Studies staff. “It’s such a beautiful campus. I’m out to make the grounds look as best they can,” she said.

Not far away was Belinda Nichols, assistant director of gift planning in the Office of Development and Alumni Affairs. “I want to pitch in and make the grounds look good for the students’ arrival,” she said. “Last week, I was moving boxes into the Wise Center. This week I’m pulling weeds.”

Added Patrice Newman, scheduling and event coordinator in Conference and Event Services: “I want to make the campus look as best we can, and I like to get out of the house and office.”

Sarah Holt, Quigley Hall building coordinator, was busy rearranging classroom seating, trimming the number of seats in Room 126 from 44 to 18 to allow for social distancing when classes resume. She said some of the remaining desks might be used to help direct one-way foot traffic in the hallway. Over in the David V. Wise Sport & Fitness Center, the Blue Courts were filled with students’ boxed belongings that volunteers were labeling with room assignments so movers can take the cargo back to residence halls before students arrive.

Back outside, Cody Crawford, an assistant football coach, was working in the gardens near the 454 House. “I needed a break from being on the computer all day long,” he said, “and I’m willing to do whatever I can to help out.”

Allegheny College employees can sign up to volunteer at ACTogether Days here.