Annie's hank aaron clean up 2013By Annie Reifsnyder, Area Coordinator

For the past three years our SE Wisconsin family has been partnering with the Department of Natural Resources to help clean-up the Hank Aaron Trail.  The trail named for the Milwaukee Brewer legend flanks Miller Park, where the baseball team plays.  It’s a neat inaugural Greenheart project where our exchange students get a chance to interact with each other, the various families, and learn how community service can benefit others and be fun at the same time.

Two years ago there were three students and eight of us who attended the game.  Last year we branched out to five students and 15 of us were there.  This year, we had 11 students and 24 attendees.

Included this year were the three original families from our first event, two who are hosting again and one who supports all things Greenheart even while not hosting.

As our family grows and grows it is neat to see the similarities and differences from year to year.  The students are always eager to meet each other and share their experiences.  No matter the language and culture, they still are experiencing the same challenges, fears, and successes.   The nerves quickly fade and they become teenagers ready to conquer a new experience.  The families too swap phone numbers and emails.  They plan dinner outings, pot lucks, and cannot wait for the project next month. This year the weather was not kind, but we made the most of our time together.  We had to cancel the clean-up, but instead baked cookies for the homeless, wrote letters to service members, and made posters for the local nursing home.  It was neat to see the students really get involved in projects and get some ideas for future Greenheart hours.  Jian from China, Theresa from Germany, Candice from France, Patrick from Germany, Yusra from Turkey, Omurkan from Kyrgyzstan, Anh from Vietnam, Andrei from Russia, Faruk from Turkey, and Kseniya from Kazakhstan were all-stars that made the sun come out in other ways that day.

I am proud to be a host mother, local coordinator, and area coordinator to my amazing team.  We are turning hearts green monthly, here in Milwaukee, and cannot wait for the next project and next year’s Hank Aaron clean-up!

Annie's hank aaron cleanup 2011 Annie's hank aaron cleanup 2012