Despite Miami shutdown, annual dorm cleaning donation effort goes on

The annual Oxford event Sharefest will not be happening as scheduled this week due to the coronavirus, but the abrupt departure of Miami students from on-campus housing due to the shutdown set into motion a mini-ShareFest with the gathering of food for the food pantry.

ShareFest President Carol Michael announced recently this year’s collection was canceled at the suggestion of Oxford Fire Chief John Detherage due to the threat from the coronavirus.

Scheduled to start this Wednesday and run through May 19, this year’s event was seeking to surpass last year’s record total of 107 tons of items collected from the university and community. ShareFest is a service and environmental nonprofit corporation dedicated to the collection and redistribution of items donated by Miami University students and the Oxford community at the end of the academic year. Collected items benefit residents in need and social service agencies throughout the region.

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On-campus students were forced to leave suddenly when the shutdown was ordered and Miami’s student organization EcoReps mobilized to place boxes in each residence hall for them to place unneeded food items to be donated to the pantry. Michael said more than 3,000 pounds of food was collected to be taken to Talawanda Oxford Pantry and Social Services, formerly the Oxford Community Choice Pantry.

Rob Abowitz, Miami’s associate director of residence life and a member of the ShareFest board of directors, helped coordinate the pickup, along with Adam Sizemore, director of sustainability, and Cecil Okotah, recycling coordinator.

The food boxes in each residence hall were collected by volunteers, which included several professors, Jeff MacDonald, Michael and longtime ShareFest volunteer Alice Laatsch, among others.

“We knew we could not implement ShareFest to scale. The EcoReps put boxes in every residence hall. Nearly 6,000 students moved out in mid-March and we collected over 3,000 pounds. It’s not the quantity we would get for a full-fledged ShareFest but it helped divert items from the trash,” Abowitz said, adding they are planning a second collection. “There are still about 1,400 students to move out. Those students will be invited to return and move out. We hope to collect more.”

The collections are strictly among students living on campus while ShareFest normally would include collection from off-campus students, as well.

Another campus recycling effort was cut short by the coronavirus shutdown as the RecycleMania competition with Ohio University ended two weeks early when students were told to leave the campus. The group Zero Waste pairs up groups from different campuses and they compete for collecting the most donations in several weeks. The focus for the collections is clothing and shoes. Four buildings from each campus were chosen to take up the collections.

One of the RecycleMania categories in which Miami participated — Zero Waste — involved four Central Quad residence halls competing against each other to track waste reduction and zero waste efforts. That contest, between Hamilton, Minnich, Richard and Scott halls, generated more than 370 pounds of clothing (15 large bags), Sizemore said.

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