Hundreds of Hofstra University students fanned out across Hempstead Village and Uniondale neighborhoods on Saturday morning, carrying rakes and trash bags with the vow that no leaf would be left behind.
When there weren’t enough rakes to go around, the blue-and-gold-clad students participating in the school’s Shake-a-Rake community service project scooped up leaf piles with their bare hands.
This year’s fall cleanup involved nearly 700 students and more than 50 homes. The program began in 2009 with 40 students.
“We want to show them that we really appreciate them,” said Anita Ellis, who heads community outreach for the college. “These are our neighbors.”
About 20 members of the Phi Sigma Sigma sorority and the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity raked a small park in Hempstead, at Devon Road and Cornwall Lane, before going around the corner to help some residents on Cameron Avenue.
For Phi Sigma Sigma sophomore Lauren Dietzel, 20, it was the first time the resident of balmy Los Angeles has ever raked leaves.
“We have leaves, but there’s no need to rake them,” the drama major said with a laugh.
Phi Sigma Sigma senior Claire Malkie, 21, of Washington, D.C., said students — especially those involved in Greek life — often get a bad reputation by people who live near college campuses.
She said community service programs — particularly ones that start at 9 a.m. on a Saturday — show residents that students care about the neighborhood and are “not just partying on the weekends.”
Hempstead Village resident John Nunez, 58, was home Saturday morning when he heard “a whole bunch of folks” outside. When he saw the rakes, he knew they were the Hofstra volunteers.
“Every year they do a wonderful job,” he said.
Bonita Christopher, 65, who lives across the street, watched as swarming students quickly bagged the leaves shrouding her lawn.
“That’s very good of them,” she said.