The goal behind WABASH Day was never self-serving. Sure, there would be meaningful service – 16 projects that dotted Crawfordsville and Central Indiana as well as six others spread nationally from Washington, DC, to Denver to Dallas – but the goal was always something bigger.
“From the beginning, WABASH Day also aimed to strengthen the bonds among alumni, faculty, staff, and students and to welcome our family members, too,” said Jon Pactor ’71, the man behind the idea. “It would also provide leadership opportunities for individuals and would strengthen regional associations. After 14 years, it has proven to be a grand success.”
Yes, after 14 years, WABASH Day (Wabash Alumni Benefiting And Serving Humanity) continues to meet the challenge of improving communities and fostering camaraderie.
George Vinihakis ’15, of Orland Park, IL, captained the Wabash Club of Chicago’s efforts to clean up a Chicago-area beach. Working through the adopt a beach program, Wabash alumni gathered at the 12th Street Beach and collected nearly 50 pounds of trash from the lakeshore.
Camaraderie is the lasting effect.
“While it was great in helping maintain one of the more renowned Chicago beaches, the overriding benefit was the camaraderie,” said Vinihakis. “What makes these events so enjoyable is sharing the moment and accomplishment with other Wabash guys. New connections were made and fostered because of this project, which is paramount to our efforts as an alumni group.”
Jared Lange ’08, of Dallas, TX, coordinated a day of fence painting at Dallas Heritage Village. Located in historic Old City Park, the museum uses its collections of historic buildings (1840-1910) and furnishings to sponsor research and to present educational programs and special events for diverse audiences.
Lange feels a strong byproduct of the endeavor is to get to know his fellow Wabash grads a bit better.
“The greatest benefit, aside from providing assistance, is meeting other Wabash associated individuals in the area,” he said. “We extend the invite to non-grads, family members, and board members. In the Dallas/Fort Worth area, people are constantly moving into the community, so it's nice to learn more about each other's backgrounds and interests.”
There is value, too, in the assistance, as can be seen in the work that Kevin Benefiel ’81 and his family have championed at The Villages, a provider of foster care, adoption, child care, and early childhood development services in Indianapolis.
This was the 14th consecutive year Benefiel and his family -- wife Julie, and sons Ty ’08 and Grant ’16 – have completed projects at The Villages, ranging from painting interior walls to spreading mulch throughout the playground to painting and staining the playground equipment.
In that span, WABASH Day efforts have helped The Villages save thousands of dollars. Pactor, a regular contributor at The Villages, remembered that one year a staff member said they spread so much mulch that it saved the agency enough money to fuel their bus for an entire year.
Benefiel felt a similar impact, as well. “The improvements we’ve made both inside and out at The Villages has had a positive impact on the appearance,” he said. “However, the financial impact we’ve had in terms of saving The Villages over $25,000 dollars has been beneficial to them and rewarding for us.”
The win-win proposition of WABASH Day also resonates with group leaders like Lange.
“I enjoy to participating in WABASH Day because it's a great opportunity to assist our community and grow the bonds between our alumni,” said Lange. “It's an honor to aid an organization with other individuals who share the same passion to help.”