Volunteers spruce up neighbors surrounding USF

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Neighborhoods surrounding the University of South Florida received some much needed TLC on Saturday. Hundreds of student volunteers hand-washed homes, cleaned parks and helped plant a community garden in more than 20 impoverished areas around the university.

This is the fourth year for "Paint the Town," a community service event hosted by the University Area Community Development Corporation (UACDC).

"What we're trying to do through these meaningful projects is to show the community residents that we care,” said Sarah Combs, executive director of the UACDC. “We want to see this community change for the better.”

Volunteers helped wash and cut down thick weeds at a home that was facing code violations with the city. The homeowner, Earl Fox, is legally blind and was unable to do a lot of the repair work at his home.

"They're doing a good job of being role models for the students that aren't like them. We've got too much bad publicity about students today," said Fox.

Youth from the UACDC's Prodigy Cultural Arts Program painted a garden scene mural on the exterior of the Harvest Hope Center community kitchen. At the same location, volunteers planted vegetables in a community garden, where local residents can pick food for free.

Some volunteers were not only college students, but Tampa natives, who said their community is a reflection of them.

"When people go in your room they think, this is you. It describes you. I want to be described as a person who has a great environment, and you've got to tackle it one house, one road, one wherever at a time," said David Wilson, a senior at the University of Tampa.

Organizers included area residents in the cleanup event as well, encouraging them to take a vested interest in the community.