Howe to beat back the snow

- February 25, 2005

student shovelling
Photo Credit: Dan Abriel

It seems as though we've been hit by more snow than usual this winter. For some this can be a serious worry. But a group of Dalhousie students at a well known residence have stepped up to do their part to make winter a little easier for some.

Marc Douglas is the senior residence coordinator at Howe Hall and is also the coordinator of a new snow shoveling program that pairs Howe Hall students with seniors in nearby neighbourhoods. The program is in conjunction with the HRM program that provides shoveling assistance to area seniors that meet the qualifications and are now being partnered with enthusiastic Dal students like Douglas.

Douglas comes to Dalhousie from Vancouver where snow is a rare and fleeting phenomenon. Experiencing his first Nova Scotia winter was something of a shock. "We don't get a lot of snow where I come from," he says. "This was an adjustment to say the least. An even bigger challenge was the cold - I came here with a coat that didn't do much to protect against the kind of temperatures you get here. For Christmas, all I wanted from my parents was a warm winter jacket!"

Douglas leads a team of between 40 and 50 Dal students at Howe Hall. The decision to get involved was an easy one for him: "I have volunteered all my life so this seemed like a natural thing to do. I want to show that Dal residences do a lot of good. Sometimes we get a bad rap. But when it's bad news, it's always just a few bad apples."

Douglas is referring specifically to some of the negative coverage university students in Halifax have received in the press. Last year there was a great deal of media surrounding conflicts between students and other residents of the city's south end. Particular attention was paid to students in residence. But Douglas knew that what was being reported didn't reflect most of those living and studying at Dalhousie.

"Most students are good people and want to give something back to the community," he says. Douglas was also one of the students who joined the Dalhousie University Community Committee (DUCC). In this role he has been a vital link between students in residence and other members of the community. The snow shoveling program is a natural extension of that commitment.

Douglas has been paired with Mary Blanchard, who lives near the campus. When asked if Douglas and the other Dal students in the program have been helpful to her this winter she says: "That's an understatement. They've been so kind and good to me, I don't know what I'd do without them."

Each time the city gets snow, a student team heads out to the various "adopted" homes and clears the sidewalk, stairs and driveway. The students use shovels purchased with funds from Dalhousie Facilities Management. With a group of students at each home, the work goes quickly - a good thing considering how many storms we have seen in the weeks since Christmas. It's been hard work, but worth it. "I had muscle aches in places I didn't know I had muscles," Douglas says. "But it feels really good to help these people out. When we looked into the program, we discovered there were a lot of people who needed the help and who qualified so we know we're doing something meaningful."

While is looks as though the worst of the winters storms may be a thing of the past Douglas says not to get too comfortable.

"Of course, it was this time last year when White Juan hit," he reminds us. "I'm kind of glad we weren't on duty then, as it took hours just to walk down a street. But if it hits this year, we'll deal. I think we could be in for another big one before the year is out. There's still a lot of winter left."

Let's hope he's wrong, but if not, we can take comfort in knowing Marc Douglas and the other Howe Hall students are on duty, waiting to tackle the next big one.


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