After existing for 15 years, diverting 8 tons of reusable items from landfills and benefitting more than 1,500 San Marcos families just last year, a popular recycling program has been canceled.
Pack it Up and Pass it On, a program that operated as a function of the Office of Community Relations at Texas State, encouraged students to donate unwanted but usable items such as clothing and kitchenware to local families in need.
However, the initiative is canceled for now as a result of last month’s merger in which the Office of Community Relations became a part of the Dean of Students’ Office.
“I think, in all honesty, a number of stake holders and individuals who are recipients of this program will be devastated,” said Miguel Arredondo, political science senior and fifth generation San Martian. “On the heels of two of the most catastrophic weather events in our community’s history — the Memorial weekend flood and the All Saint’s Day flood — our families in this community are still trying to rebuild and put their lives back together.”
Kim Porterfield, former director of Community Relations, is now a special assistant to the dean of students. She said the university is in the midst of realignments and reorganization in accordance with the latest strategic plan. As a part of the process, the Community Relations programs and events are under review.
As a Texas State student and an active community member serving as the youngest trustee on the San Marcos CISD School Board, Arredondo feels the community will suffer from the absence of Pack it Up and Pass it On.
He said the timing of the postponement of the project couldn’t have been worse and could have been avoided if administration had planned more effectively.
“I think with more planning and foresight in the decision, Pack it Up and Pass it On could have occurred this year,” Arredondo said. “But with out proper notice and planning it has obviously been postponed because of that. There hasn’t been a department willing or able to pick it up with such short notice.”
Pack it Up and Pass it On put the “reuse” in the “reduce, reuse, and recycle” philosophy, he said. For local families and even Texas State employees of lower socioeconomic status, the program provided an economically feasible opportunity for back-to-school shopping.
Arredondo said although he bleeds maroon and gold because of his love for Texas State, he is heartbroken that it is “easily perceived” that the university, as it gets ranked higher on national and state levels, may be putting a greater focus on areas like athletics rather than the community the institution presides in.
“I hope this university does not lose its true mission which is education, and not only that but that they lose focus or they lose respect for the community which this university calls home and the year-round residents who call this community calls home,” Arredondo said.
During her time serving as a Community Relations employee since 2014, Mariana Zamora has seen the work that the office and its initiatives accomplished firsthand.
“Pack It Up and Pass It On has been a Texas State tradition since 2002 and has been an opportunity for students, who may not have the time to volunteer during the school year, to give back to the San Marcos community before they leave for summer break,” Zamora said.
She said the recycling program successfully diverted unwanted and usable items from landfills and put them directly into the hands of people in need.
“Sometimes the poverty in San Marcos can so easily be masked by our beautiful university, we forget that families live here too,” Zamora said. “Over 75 percent of our San Marcos CISD school children come from families with a lower socioeconomic status and for some families, Pack It Up and Pass It On was the only opportunity for them to go back-to-school shopping.”
Zamora believes the program stood out because it helped create meaningful service and learning opportunities for students and put a face on the Texas State student body for the rest of the community.
Community Relations hosted several initiatives including Pack it Up and Pass it On, Bobcat for a Day and College Knowledge. Zamora said she hopes these programs can continue to live on, even if they are hosted by different departments.
“I believe that the first step to addressing this issue is taking the time to properly notify all of the community partners, student organizations, and university entities that we collaborate with,” Zamora said. “For many, the cancellation of Pack It Up and Pass It On has been the first time our partners have even heard that our department is being eliminated.”
She fears that the relationships the Office of Community Relations made over the past 15 years will be lost in the elimination of the department, but hopes the service it sparked will continue.
“I really encourage students to donate their reusable items — clothing, small furniture and appliances, unopened toiletries, books, linens and other items — to local agencies,” Zamora said. “Students may donate items to Centro Esperanza Community Center, the Southside Community Center, San Marcos Thrift Shop, or the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center.”