Mason Receives Environmental Awards for Community Programs

Posted: May 26, 2010 at 1:03 am, Last Updated: June 11, 2010 at 9:15 am

By Ethan Vaughan

Dennis Kisielewski, database administrator in Community Relations, helps empty donation bins for Patriot Pack Out. Photo by Evan Cantwell

Mason impacts the community every day in various ways, whether it be through teaching, research or other activities. Two Mason initiatives, both spearheaded by University Relations’ Office of Community Relations, recently received recognition for the positive impact they both have had on Northern Virginia.

One is Patriot Pack Out and the other is Go Green with Gunston.

Community leaders can already tell you about how Mason’s Patriot Pack Out has made great contributions to the local area.

“It’s wonderful,” says Ninfa Gonzales, manager of the Clock Tower Thrift Shop in Centreville, where donations of clothing and other items from Mason students were taken at semester’s end. “It’s just wonderful. We’ll help a lot of families.”

On May 18, this informal praise was officially recognized when the Virginia Recycling Association honored Patriot Pack Out with one of its Green Carpet Awards, a nod for Outstanding New Age Recycling Performance.

Patriot Pack Out was initiated in 2007 by Community Relations Manager Sarah Gallagher and Community Relations Director Traci Claar.

Volunteers load a truck full of donations for Patriot Pack Out. Photo by Evan Cantwell

“Traci was aware of how much was being thrown away in the dormitories,” says Gallagher. “We’re always trying to reach out to the local community, and we did a lot of research on what other schools had done. We collaborated with various partners, including the Office of Housing and Residence Life and Office of Recycling and Waste Management. The time was right to see what we could do.”

The results were impressive. From the program’s inception to this year’s effort, the amount of food collected jumped from 505 to 1,384 pounds, enough to feed 346 families.

The university’s total 2010 donation, including food, clothing and other items, came to 8,180 pounds.

“We’re very happy,” says Roxanne Rice, executive director of Food for Others. Between 2007 and 2009, demand at her food bank increased by 70 percent.

“We were looking for all the sources of free food we could find, and [in Patriot Pack Out] we found a great new way to get [contributions]. We want to thank George Mason for coming up with this unique way of rescuing food and getting it where it needs to go, and for keeping with it for four years.”

Gonzales agrees.

This logo by Creative Services' Debra Ranson won a Spotlight Award from the Virginia Recycling Association.

“It’s a big impact,” she said. “Lately we’ve been low on donations, and we’ve been getting nothing, but this has been a big difference with all the stuff we got.”

Northern Virginia Family Services estimates that Mason’s contributions netted $26,000 in revenue to the organization last year, and Gonzales says that thousands of dollars was raised this year as well.

“All of this money will go to help a lot of families and go to different programs,” she explains. “If people only took a few minutes to help these organizations and to donate like George Mason did, it would make a difference and help a lot of people. It would be a big change.”

At the same time, the Virginia Recycling Association gave Mason’s Go Green with Gunston program a Spotlight Award for its innovative logo, which was designed by Mason graphic artist Debra Ranson of Creative Services.

Go Green with Gunston travelled to 32 schools and 1,300 elementary school students during the 2009-10 school year. The performance consisted of two actors, one of whom wore the full Gunston costume.  Gunston was tasked with teaching the young children about being environmentally conscious.

“The kids have been very enthusiastic,” says Gallagher.

Below is a video of a Go Green with Gunston presentation at the Smithsonian American Art Museum Earth Day Celebration.

Go Green with Gunston at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Write to gazette at