Bring It Back to Normal is a day that the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) holds every year where Illinois State University students have traditionally been able to give back to their community by helping out neighbors in the Bloomington-Normal area through yardwork and different home projects.
This year operated a little bit differently than past years due to the ongoing pandemic. Usually, students would go to the houses of residents in the Bloomington-Normal area; however, to keep things safe, the students worked to clean up some of the parks in town.
On April 9, students who volunteered at Bring it Back to Normal made an impact helping around town. Thirty-four students split up and went to different areas in Normal to serve. Ten students helped out at Shepard Park, 16 volunteered at Maxwell Park, and eight picked up trash along Constitution Trail.
“Overall, the event went really well,” said Blair Canedy, a graduate assistant in charge of community service projects at the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE). “After dealing with rain in 2019 and having the 2020 event canceled because of the pandemic, we were thrilled to have such gorgeous weather for this year’s project.”
“We had almost all students checked-in and headed to their sites by 1:40 p.m.,” Canedy continued.
For many students this was a great opportunity to get out and meet new people, in a safe way, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I chose to participate because I like to volunteer; however, with COVID-19, it has been more challenging to find places that will let you volunteer,” said Zach Babler, a junior food, nutrition, and dietetics major who served during the event. “I met some awesome people that day and got to enjoy some nice weather.”
Some students attended a training session where they discussed the history of Bring it Back to Normal, what the day would look like, and how to lead reflection, so that they could lead other volunteers at their sites. These students served as site leaders.
“There were two site leaders at Maxwell Park, two site leaders at Constitution Trail, and one at Shepard Park,” said Canedy.
“They lead their individual groups, delegating tasks to each student, then monitored the work throughout the event. After service ended, they each lead reflection and then dismissed their groups.”
“We were assigned to Maxwell Park, where we laid down mulch around the park trees,” said Shaniece Cole, a junior sociology major who was a site leader while volunteering. “Based on my love for being outside and gardening, I thought Bring it Back to Normal would be the ideal volunteer experience.”
Tan Macaraeg, a junior theatre design production and technology major was a site leader along Constitution Trail. “Our group focused on picking up trash along the Constitution Trail,” Macaraeg said. “We did some great work but fortunately there wasn’t an immense amount of trash in this section. We did notice that the trash was concentrated around the student residences along the trail, however. As a student, I encourage my peers to educate themselves and be conscious of their impact.”
Through this volunteer experience a lot of the volunteers were able to see first-hand how important it is to try and maintain good habits when it comes to taking care of our town and the world we live in.
“I chose to participate because I consider service a core value of mine. I really believe it is humanity’s collective responsibility to use any and all power they have to better the world around us whether that be nature or other humans,” said Macaraeg.
“We are all living together on this planet so we should stand in solidarity to care for it and all its inhabitants. There is so much to do, and this is only part of it.”
Overall, no matter the reason the students decided to volunteer, there was a great turnout, and these students were able to have an experience that allowed them to realize the impact they have in their town. Through Bring It Back to Normal they were also able to fulfill the project’s primary goal—thanking the local community that hosts Redbirds each school year.