With final exams done and only 24 hours to clear out of their dorm rooms, Western Maryland College students frantically packed, loaded their cars and tossed out what they wouldn't need next year.
Kathy Brown, director of Westminster charity Shepherd's Staff, headed them off at the trash bins, doggedly pursuing those discards.
"Throw it our way!" she shouted at a group headed for the trash heap. "We are filling a bus."
For the past two days, Brown has collected clothing, linens, books and furniture in a bus she has on loan from Carroll County's Head Start program for preschoolers.
What she can't use for her annual back-to-school clothing and supplies giveaway in August, she will sell at the charity's yard sale June 2. Proceeds will go to purchase new shoes and backpacks.
"This program is students helping students," she said.
Seats and aisles on the yellow bus were filled with all sorts of oddities: an electric guitar; a miniature pool table with felt brush, cue stick and balls; well-used computers; and a rickety television stand. Dixon Harvey, owner of College Square Shopping Center, has offered Brown a vacant store for a week so she can sort the donations.
Dormitories pitch in
Volunteers had circulated giant trash bags in dorms and advertised the collection with fliers and telephone calls.
"We asked for gently used clothes, school supplies, anything you aren't taking home," said Meg Martin, who will graduate from WMC next week. She finished a stint as president of Circle K, a student service organization, which helped organize the drive.
She donated the computer that had seen her through her college years -- once fellow volunteers helped her dismantle and pack it.
"I got a new computer for graduation, and my parents don't want the old one to come home," said Martin, of Stratford, N.J. "I hope some kid who needs this will get it."
The plastic bags were returned steadily, filled with clothing, books and dorm decor.
Sophomore Leah Galvin will fly back to her Colorado Springs, Colo., home this weekend and she wanted light bags. She gave things away.
"I am not lugging extra stuff, and I have way too many things," she said, as she added her bag to the busload.
Freshman Jeff Bothe of Ellicott City tossed in textbooks, novels and clothing. "I have to clean my room out because I'm leaving tomorrow," he said.
On his second bus trip, Bothe added pencils, paperbacks and an instruction book for beginning guitarists. That might seal a sale of the donated guitar, volunteers said.
"It's got all the strings," said Brentwood Lockard, a Westminster retiree who volunteers for Shepherd's Staff. "All you have to do is hook it up."
No donation was too onerous, although Brown did say, "wash it first" to a facetious offer of slightly soiled laundry.
Cumbersome furniture wider than the back door of the bus went into the bed of a volunteer's pickup truck.
Among the donations was an oversized sofa that took four beefy sophomores several tense minutes to maneuver down two flights of stairs.
"I don't feel like bringing it home. It's really old and sure not light," said Bobby Laffui, returning to Cochranville, Pa., for the summer.
He assured Brown that life remained in the three-seater covered in faded peach corduroy. "All you have to do is fix the broken leg," he said, stuffing a wooden piece between the cushions.
Trash bins checked
During lulls in donations, volunteers checked five trash bins around the Westminster campus. Anything reachable was fair game. They fished what appeared to be a sturdy office chair from the top of one trash bin only to toss it back for lack of a seat.
In between exams and his senior paper, Jeremiah Kelly of Frederick dropped by the bus, promising to return with clothes he "has not added to the rotation" this past year.
"Anybody who doesn't think this is a good cause does not appreciate what the less fortunate have to deal with," Kelly said.