University of Kentucky freshmen Tamas Nagy and Jacob Riney found themselves toiling side by side on Monday to clear brush from a pedestrian bridge at a North Lexington park they'd never been to before.
The two were among 1,500 UK students and staff who volunteered to work at dozens of community groups and neighborhoods around Lexington as part of UK's annual FUSION — For Unity and Service In Our Neighborhoods — day.
The number was a new high for the event, in part because of the UK swim and dive team, which brought 35 volunteers, and other groups.
The swim and dive team eventually had to split up and disperse with other students to various sites — including The Arboretum, Refugee Ministries, Raven Run and the International Book Project.
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Geraldine Goh, a junior pre-med student at UK and executive director for FUSION, said the project helps groups in need and gets students into parts of the community that they might not see as UK students.
"There are organizations out there that need our help," Goh said. "It's really an important part of their college career."
UK students arrived at Haggin Field in the morning, picked their projects and were driven via charter bus to their work site. They were then picked up in mid-afternoon and returned to campus.
Some volunteers stenciled storm drains. Others, such as the group of about 20 students dispatched to the Mary Todd Park in North Lexington, trimmed brush, cut tree limbs, replaced solar lights and painted the park's sign.
Nagy, of Lexington, wielded a pair of hedge clippers to trim back some of the overhang that covered the park's walking path bridge. Assisting him was Riney, of Owensboro.
"This is the first time I've even been here," Riney said.
Josie Giurgevich-Jones, president of the Joyland Neighborhood Association, said her organization did not get to do a spring cleanup of the park, so she was particularly glad to have the students' help.
Allen Ayuninjam of Frankfort was having a good time swinging on a splintered tree branch, which eventually required a saw to bring it down.
He credited the event with introducing him to other UK students.
"I just met them during FUSION," he said. "I didn't do FUSION last year, and my sister (Diane Ayuninjam, also a UK student) kept telling me how great it was."
Annie Ngo was on her third year of participating in the FUSION project.
"It's a good feeling, knowing that I helped out," she said.