Northeastern student shovelers dig out snowed-in neighbors

Members of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity shovel out cars and driveways in the neighborhoods surrounding Northeastern on Friday. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

On Friday afternoon, Agnes Alford, 66, continued slowly digging out her car encased in snow and ice on St. Botolph Street, following a nor’easter the day before that dropped nearly a foot of snow on Boston. She’d been out Thursday night—or rather, early Friday morning—at 1 a.m. to try to make some headway, but the frigid temperatures and fatigue got the better of her.

“I almost just left it today too, but I need my car,” she said, as she massaged her lower back.

So, when a swarm of bundled-up Northeastern students, carrying shovels and road salt, descended on her sedan and made quick work of its icy cocoon, Alford was overjoyed.

“I can’t thank you all enough!” she said over and over, a smile never leaving her face. “This just made my day. Lord only knows how much longer I would have been out here.”

The dozen or so students cleared out Alford’s car and three others on the street before pushing onward to clear off the cars, walkways, and driveways of other unsuspecting citizens in Boston’s Mission Hill neighborhood.

The students are all members of Alpha Epsilon Pi, a fraternal organization at Northeastern with roughly 65 current student members. And they weren’t the only ones who volunteered Friday.

Rebecca Regan, director of Off-Campus Student Services, said other student-volunteers came out on a moment’s notice to clear out other community spaces.

Volunteers, including Amelia Santiago, Russell Emery, Riley Kusnick, and Anh Nguyen work to shovel out the sidewalks and crosswalks surrounding Northeastern. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Regan

Those students first tackled the Community Garden sidewalk side of Symphony Road, then moved on to Melnea Cass Boulevard, where several bus stops and crosswalk entrances had not been touched. There, they shoveled out three bus stops and two crosswalk entrances. “It was fantastic work for the residents in that area,” Regan said.

Alex Grun, one of the members of Alpha Epsilon Pi, organized the flash shoveling mob. He said he was struck with the idea during Thursday’s snowstorm.

“It was just really bad out,” said Grun, DMSB’20. “And then in the morning when I walked out of my apartment I had a little trouble getting around, and I’m an able-bodied, 21-year-old college student. So, I thought about all those people who must’ve been having a harder time than me.”

Grun sent a text message to the other members of Alpha Epsilon Pi to see who was available and soon had enough volunteers to put his idea into action. The group purchased a few bags of road salt, connected with the university’s Facilities Division to borrow shovels, and started shoveling out neighbors by Friday afternoon.

“I feel like this is the least we can do for people out here,” Grun said. “Not everyone is as lucky as we are to have the sidewalks and roads on campus cleared off so quickly. These neighborhoods are part of our community, too.”

His was a sentiment shared by other volunteers.

“When you get this much snow, you have to think about people injuring themselves trying to shovel, or just not being able to do it,” said Zach Gershman, SSH’18. “I kind of feel like, we’re college students, we’re young, we can do this.”

Added Ben Lippman, E’21: “I just like the feeling of helping people out, knowing you’re doing a good thing.”

Based on the reaction they received on St. Botolph Street, the group’s efforts were much appreciated.

Scattered shouts of, “Thank you!” could be heard from apartment windows, while Alford, storing her shovel back in the trunk of her car, said, “It’s unbelievable.”