Return of the Heartside Cleanup

Photo courtesy of CAVA.

Story by Lindsay Hillstrom, News Editor

On April 23, the Community Action Volunteers of Aquinas (CAVA) will be hosting its annual Heartside Cleansweep event in collaboration with the Alumni Association Leadership Council (AALC) and Dwelling Place. This event, while sidelined for the past two years due to COVID-19, has been a staple of Aquinas College’s involvement in the Grand Rapids community for more than 20 years. 

“Aquinas students, residents and alumni will have the opportunity to work together on a variety of activities that will benefit the community,” said Brianna Haarer, a CAVA student coordinator. “Tasks include picking up trash, clearing debris, gardening and laying mulch as part of the broader effort to restore the Heartside neighborhood.”

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many student organizations have struggled to host events, CAVA among them.

“This will be the first off-campus CAVA event since COVID happened,” Haarer said. “The last few years, we have not been able to do the Heartside Cleansweep due to the pandemic, so I’m really excited to continue it. It has been interesting trying to bring these events back and figure out what we might need to do differently.”

Photo courtesy of CAVA.

This year also marks the first time that alumni have been directly involved in the Heartside Cleansweep event. Nathan Schall, a 2016 Aquinas graduate and head of the AALC, is eager to unite current students and alumni under the common cause of community involvement. 

“Overall, I just loved the number of people helping out,” Schall said. “The spirit of Aquinas was almost palpable. A lot of fellowship takes place, and I thought that adding a few alumni to the group could bring a new dimension to the cleanup.”

Schall also explained the impact that this event has on the local community.

“The Heartside neighborhood was a pretty disinvested area when I started in 2012,” Schall said. “By the time I graduated in 2016, lots of new investment was taking place. One thing Aquinas alumni will be surprised at is the investment the city and private sectors have put into this community.” 

Schall expressed hope that Aquinas students, both past and present, can come together to make a difference. For more information on how to get involved, contact Brianna Haarer at or Brian Molhoek at (616) 676-6527.

Categories: News, The Saint