Fundraiser makes good use of garbage time

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Caroline Mailloux ‘08.5 loves to talk trash, especially to Keeney freshmen. Ambling down the halls of the first-year dorm, she knocks on doors and informs students of a project to build a waste-disposal system in a slum in the West African nation of Mali.

But unlike most trash talkers, Mailloux isn’t all hot air. In her hands is an oversized barrel stuffed with scraps from scores of Keeney dorm room garbage bins – and she’s collecting more than just junk.

“We’d just show up in Keeney and offer to take out the trash for whatever spare change was lying around,” Mailloux said. “Rather than fumbling for loose pocket change, students pulled out ones, fives and tens.”

A five-year veteran of numerous campus fundraising efforts, from letter-writing campaigns to a “send a Crush to your crush” event on Valentine’s Day, Mailloux is one of a few innovative fundraisers who have capitalized on a new way to raise money on campus.

“Of my campus fundraising experiences, nothing was as successful as offering to take out trash for freshmen,” Mailloux said. “We raised close to $200 in one night. Days in the P.O. didn’t even come close to that.”

The trash trend is catching on. After fruitless days in the University Post Office selling Starbucks pastries for Community Outreach through the Performing Arts, Diana Wollach ’10 did one lap around half of Keeney’s first floor with a large garbage bag in tow.

“Throwing out trash took us half an hour to make $100,” Wollach said. “Selling pastries didn’t make us nearly as much.”

Though Mailloux and Wollach said most students were glad to give up their trash and cash, there have been some surprise reactions.

When trash collectors knocked on the door of Jameson resident Akinyi Shapiro ’11, they got more – and less – than they expected.

“They asked me if they could take out my trash, but I didn’t know it was for money so I just emptied the bin,” Shapiro said. “I thought they were being noble.”

Roommate Celina Castillo ’11 realized what had transpired and interjected with a grin.

“I was like, ‘Akinyi, I think you’re supposed to pay them,’ ” Castillo recalled, laughing.

“It was terrible,” Shapiro said. ” ‘We want to take out your trash – but ha! – give us money.’ “

Caroline Segal ’11 thought more positively of the tactic after trash collectors stopped by her door.

“Everyone is too lazy to take out their trash that they’re willing to pay two, three, four dollars for it,” she said.

After giving the collectors some change from her wallet, Segal said she made a mental note of the idea.

“I think it’s brilliant,” said Segal, who volunteers for Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere. “So I brought it up at a HOPE meeting.”

But unfortunately for Brown’s many would-be do-gooders, not all trash-based initiatives have been as successful.

Scott Middleton ’10, who needs $4,000 by June to finance his upcoming cross-country trip with Bike and Build, gathered beer cans from Wriston Quadrangle’s trash rooms and hauled them to Seekonk, Mass., to exchange them for five cents apiece.

“You can’t get money for cans in Rhode Island, so I thought it would be a good idea,” Middleton said. “But I only made $30. It wasn’t as much as I would have liked.”

Middleton said he’s abandoned can collecting in favor of the door-to-door trash service, which he heard about from Mailloux.

And to the delight of lazy Keeney freshmen with overstuffed garbage bins, he planned to start yesterday.

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