Nov 072010
Authors: Allison Sylte

Diana Baca lives in a nice house with a big yard across the street from New Belgium Brewery. And every year when the leaves fall, all she can do is watch as they pile up on her lawn, her muscular dystrophy preventing her from raking.

But for the last six years, through Colorado State University’s Off-Campus Life’s Fall Clean-Up, residents like Baca have been able to breathe a sigh of relief.

During the annual event on Saturday morning, 700 CSU students formed more than 60 teams to help 130 elderly and disabled Fort Collins residents with their fall yard work.

“It’s amazing to receive this sort of help from CSU students and to see their willingness to do it,” Baca said. “Before they started helping me, I always perceived them as rude and disrespectful. But through Fall Clean-Up, I’ve gotten to know them and have realized how caring and courteous they can be.”

The event was organized and marketed by Brandi Sampson, a student staff member for Off-Campus Life, or OCL.

Dawit Assefa, another student staff member for OCL, led fundraising efforts, receiving support from Walmart, Home Depot and Ace Hardware. These companies donated either money or supplies, including rakes and work gloves.

“It’s a great opportunity to help and really give back, and offer a positive connection between CSU students and the Fort Collins community,” Sampson said.

Diana Baca and her elderly mother, Mary, were assisted this year by Sigma Chi Fraternity, which collected more than 20 bags of leaves from Baca’s yard over the course of the day.

“It’s really hard work, sure,” said Tyler Lund, a member of Sigma Chi. “But it’s amazing just to see how sincerely appreciative these people are and to get out there and to be involved in a good cause.”

Max Finster, a sophomore member of the Associated Builders and Contractors, raked leaves for community member Vahe Bayajian, who has lived in his home in east Fort Collins for the past 40 years.

“It’s my first year doing this, and I didn’t really know what to expect,” Finster said. “But just seeing the look of appreciation on his face really makes it worthwhile.”

“I can’t express in words how thankful I am for CSU students to come and help me with yard work every year,” Bayajian said. “It truly is a testament to how great the community is, that they’re out here, and I’ll be forever grateful.”

Outdoor Life Beat Reporter Allison Sylte can be reached at

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