Rowing team helps keep campus snow-free

Alese Garstick shovels snow as fellow teammate Hanna Jones applies salt to the sidewalks. Members of the rowing team shovel snow everyday starting at 5:00 am.

Eric Coulter

Alese Garstick shovels snow as fellow teammate Hanna Jones applies salt to the sidewalks. Members of the rowing team shovel snow everyday starting at 5:00 am.

Molly Waite

From December to February, Grand Valley State University is regularly buried by snow and ice, a trademark of Michigan winters. But what many students, faculty and staff do not realize is the shoveled and salted paths are partially thanks to the GVSU Rowing Team.

Between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. on days when it snows, both the men’s and women’s rowing teams shovel and salt the academic building entrances and some of the housing areas, said Ken Stanton, GVSU grounds supervisor. During the winter months, the team members work seven days a week.

“We put a lot of emphasis on the snow removal on campus,” Stanton said. “Safety for students, faculty and staff walking on the sidewalks is a priority. The crew team members have a role here, just like our employees, and they serve an important function and fill a niche that is very much needed.”

Clearing the snow is part of the Rent-A-Rower program, said John Bancheri, head coach of GVSU men’s and women’s rowing. The team members work around campus to raise money for races (regattas), training and travel.

“The sport of rowing is not inexpensive,” Bancheri said. “Each athlete pays about $1,200 a year. Because crew is a club sport, we have to do more fundraising to help pay for expenses. The snow removal is a good way for them to help themselves.”

Most of the money raised by the snow removal is used to help the rowers pay for their spring break training in Sarasota, Fla., a trip that Bancheri said costs about $325.

Senior Katie Phelan, an officer on the women’s rowing team, said the Rent-A-Rower program is an all-year fundraiser. Phelan said they have done work throughout the university and in the community, including cleanups on campus, work at university events and help for professors and other GVSU staff.

“Every job that you could possibly imagine, we’ve done,” Phelan said. “I think that this is a testament to the rowing team. This is a testament to how dedicated and hard-working my teammates are. It’s nice to realize how much we’ve been able to accomplish around here.”

About seven crew team members help with the snow removal every day, Stanton said. The rowers meet behind the Department of Public Safety building at 4:55 a.m. to pack supplies into the trucks the university provides them with for the snow removal.

Waking up at 4:30 a.m. is not easy, said junior Jimmy Wilkie, an officer on the men’s rowing team, but the early hour has not stopped him from finding the positive.

“We can hang out with different members of the team,” he said. “Sometimes, we only get to spend time with the men’s team, but when we’re doing this, we get to spend a little more time with the women’s team. It’s a little more unified when you’re all shoveling together at 5 a.m., freezing.”

Pushing the wheeled salt spreader is one of senior Laura Marshall’s favorite parts of the snow removal. Marshall, an officer for the women’s rowing team, added she is also glad to see the work they have accomplished.

“Sometimes being up and working at 5 a.m., when campus is completely deserted, makes you wonder why you’re there. But later in the day when you see cleared doorways, which are places that the plows can’t get to, you know that people appreciate not having to tiptoe on ice or freeze their feet in the snow in those high-traffic areas.”

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