Zilkha Center to run Winter Blitz program

Now in its third year of operation at the College, Winter Blitz has come under the purview of the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives. With this year’s graduation of Winter Blitz’s two founders and leaders, the Zilkha Center will run the program with the help of two interns.

“We’re both seniors, and we came back to campus and said, ‘Okay, we’ve started this project, how can we see it continue after we graduate?’” said Madeline King ’11 about herself and Jen Rowe ’11, co-founders of Winter Blitz.

According to King, the two students founded the program in their sophomore year and have run it since.

“Last year was just about doing it again, and then this year we really wanted to continue the longevity of the event after we were gone,” Rowe said.

She explained that the two founders looked at consistent programs on campus like WOOLF, Mountain Day and Where Am I?! and said, “We saw that those things that continue have some institutional support.”

According to Stephanie Boyd, director of the Zilkha Center, the organization has funded Winter Blitz for all three years of the event’s existence, but this year played a larger role in organization, especially by hiring two student interns, Hamza Zaidan ’14 and Sarah Rowe ’13, to help manage the program.
“It is our hope that these students will work on the project next year, so that we can transfer the knowledge of this inspiring program to incoming and rising students,” Boyd said.

While S. Rowe was not involved with Winter Blitz last year, she said that she found the internship opportunity inspiring.

“What I did was act as a member of the planning team, learning from Madeline and Jen about what they’d done in the past and the best ways to go about doing things,” she said. “I organized a lot of logistical things, especially teams, transportation and on-campus events.”

Boyd said that this year, the organizers of Winter Blitz “developed a methodology for online sharing of all the documents associated with this program to facilitate the handoff to future student leaders.”

The approximately $5000 budget for Winter Blitz now has its own separate account at the College “so that we can keep our funds separate and have money in advance,” S. Rowe said.
College Council, the Dean’s Office and the Chaplain’s Office supplemented the Zilkha Center’s funding of Winter Blitz this year.

According to King, the program’s budget has decreased over the last few years. Although weatherization materials like caulking supplies, insulation and other “do-it-yourself” materials need to be purchased each year, many supplies include hammers, screwdrivers, knives and other “investment” tools that can be stored and re-used from year to year.

During this year’s Blitz, students weatherized homes in Williamstown, North Adams and Adams, as well as the First Congregational Church and two off-campus faculty buildings, Treadway House and Tower House.

“We go in with an environmental agenda, but it turns into so much more of a social event, and also a social interaction and a community event,” King said.

She said the value of the event exists in how students have the opportunity to teach homeowners how to make their homes more efficient. In addition, King noted that students are able to learn from and engage with local residents whom they otherwise would most likely never meet.

“The most exciting part was that I finally got to see the volunteer side of things,” King said. She described her work in the home of a woman who “said she was very independent, and it was hard for her to ask for help.” But King said that as the afternoon progressed, “she was really comfortable with [us] students.”
“It was really nice to see what can happen when you’re in a situation where you’re able to interact with the community,” J. Rowe said.

WOOLF leaders Amelia Simmons ’13 and Jay Mehta ’13 used this year’s Winter Blitz as an opportunity to bond with their WOOLF groups.

“Our WOOLF trip was Trail Crew, so we already had a group of kids that were interested in giving back in some way,” Simmons said. “I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the day with my WOOLFies because they’re tons of fun and a really good group of people.”

Mehta said he could not help but reminisce on the community service that brought them together in the first place.

“We were once again working towards a common goal in making a place better off than it was when we got there,” he said. “Amelia and I got really lucky in that we scored a good group of frosh who actually care about making a difference wherever they go.”