Penn State

Fraternity brothers get their hands dirty in Greek Sweep cleanup

More than 50 Penn State fraternity brothers gathered to pick up trash in the Highlands neighborhood of State College during the Interfraternity Council’s Greek Sweep on Sunday, September 28, 2014.
More than 50 Penn State fraternity brothers gathered to pick up trash in the Highlands neighborhood of State College during the Interfraternity Council’s Greek Sweep on Sunday, September 28, 2014. CDT photo

Unfinished meals. Still-full beer cans. Unidentifiable garbage.

Those were a few things Zach Smick and Bill Reeves cleaned up Sunday in downtown State College following Penn State’s homecoming weekend festivities.

It was all part of the first Interfraternity Council Greek Sweep, a chance for brothers in Penn State fraternities to shake off Sunday morning cobwebs and clean the mess made by partygoers in the Highlands neighborhood. Each of the 58 brothers who signed up for the inaugural weekly effort were given brand new yellow safety vests and garbage bags.

They were then split into groups by IFC President Dan Combs and Vice President of Community Outreach Garuth Acharya to collect and separate trash and recyclables from South Burrowes Street to South Garner Street and from East College Avenue to East Fairmount Avenue.

Acharya said the cleanup area would expand as more volunteers participated. He also said they did not pick up trash on private property, as the IFC needs to get approval from the borough and individual property owners to clean private property.

Smick and Reeves began their part of the sweep in the parking lot off of South Garner Street. The pair started next to the dumpster at the top of their parking lot before making their way down, at first picking up typical trash littered around the dumpster, such as paper plates, plastic cups and beer cans.

The cleanup appeared to get off to an easy start, but grotesque pieces of garbage awaited Smick, Reeves and their brothers.

An unknown brown and orange liquid substance inside a grocery bag was spotted a few feet away from the Dumpster.

Smick and Reeves stood over the grocery bag to examine it for a moment before Smick pinched a piece of the bag not covered in slime and gunk and picked it up.

“You’re braver than I am, Smick,” Reeves said.

“Hey, as long as I don’t have to touch whatever is in the bag,” the glove-less Smick said.

Combs said the IFC would provide gloves to volunteers beginning next weekend to combat miscellaneous, obscene garbage, such as the indistinguishable mixture of garbage and trash that Carter Dettor found behind a downtown restaurant.

“I’ll see what I can do,” Dettor said as he reluctantly bent down and cleaned the unruly mess. “I mean, it really isn’t as bad as I thought it would be — except for this stuff. I think the town really keeps things clean, so this has been alright.”

Kevin Kassab, the borough’s supervisor for the Division of Health and Neighborhood Services, said the borough does sweep some streets, though he could not confirm if they’d been done overnight. He came to see and support the fraternities when their cleanup began.

“Well, there are a lot of entities out there that do help,” Kassab said.

“We have the Downtown Improvement District that does their part. Through education and through the years, property owners are good at policing areas after big events. Business owners open their shops and pick up any trash in front of their business. So, a lot of people are already helping, and we’re glad the fraternities have decided to help, too.”

Combs said the IFC would provide water, snacks and hand sanitizer beginning next week.

“It’s really nice to see the tangible results of our efforts,” Combs said.

Acharya said his goal is for 100 brothers to join in the efforts this year, which is why he ordered 100 safety vests.

“What I’ve tried to do is approach the borough in innovative ways, because we want the fraternities and surrounding community to be synonymous,” Acharya said. “So, we want to always build and improve our relationship with the community, because it is as much our community as it is anyone else’s and we want it to be clean just like anyone else.”