Indiana State University Newsroom

ISU student lends a hand in Los Angeles

January 18, 2011

As she climbed over rocks and fallen trees to collect old cans, bottles, Styrofoam pieces and even flip flops, Britany Dean quickly filled a large trash bag with debris that had been washed down the mountains of southern California.

As she finished picking up the trash, she watched as a ranger came down the mountain, ready to begin the work they had finished only minutes before. The surprise registered on his face at the work they did in one day that would have taken him weeks to do.

"That was really rewarding," said Dean, an Indiana State University sophomore public relations major from Brazil.

Dean was one of 10 college students who spent part of the winter break participating in the Liberty Mutual "Liberty Lends a Hand Community Project" in Los Angeles. The students spent part of the week picking up trash and debris that had been washed down the mountains following record amounts of rain last fall.

Dean spent a week of her winter break participating in the Liberty Mutual "Liberty Lends a Hand Community Project" in Los Angeles. Insurance company Liberty Mutual started the program as a way to help in the response to catastrophic events like the southern California wildfires that impacted communities in the summer of 2009.

She learned of the trip through an email from the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and decided at the last minute to apply to the contest open to college students in the United States. Applicants submitted videos explaining why they should be chosen for the trip.

Dean asked a friend to film her using her phone's video camera.

"This was my chance to prove that the people in our community could make a big difference," Dean said.

Dean remembers evacuating her house after a neighbor's house exploded from a gas fire and watching as the community rallied together to help her and her family.

"I knew what the people from the wildfires were going through," she said.

In her video, Dean explained her desire to lend a hand to make a difference because "community service expands so much further than service within your community."She also has a passion for volunteering that has become stronger through her service to 14th and Chestnut Community Center and Ryves Youth Center in Terre Haute.

She didn't think she would be one of the 10 chosen to participate, but she was notified in November of her selection. She packed her bags and on Jan. 2 flew to Los Angeles to meet the rest of the group for the 7-day trip.

The trip was all-expense paid, including airline tickets, food and lodging.

While in California, Dean and the other volunteers planted more than 250 pine tree saplings in the Angeles National Forest. Liberty Mutual plants about 2,000 trees each year to help replace trees destroyed by the wildfires.

"That was like back-breaking work. It's really rocky terrain, so it made it hard to dig into the ground," Dean said. "It only took a couple of hours, so that was a big accomplishment for us."

Dean and the other volunteers donned masks and gloves to clean an former ranger house that had been converted into a volunteer service building.

They also cleaned the Mt. Baldy Visitor Center and the Angeles National Forest Learning Center, which hosts educational program for children. They assembled learning aids or "gold bags" for the learning center to use as tools to teach the children about the California Gold Rush.

"It was so much more than community service because you got to network with nine other students from across the U.S.," Dean said. "These are students who are doing the same as you, coming together and working on the same project."

The group went sightseeing in the evenings to places such as the Santa Monica Pier, Hollywood, Crystal Lake Resort and Disneyland.

"The trip was work, but it was also really rewarding and really good. I would definitely do it again," Dean said.

The trip provided Dean with opportunities for the future.

"I had never heard of anything to do with Liberty Mutual before. This gave me a good impression of that company and opened up the doors for future internships," she said. "The coordinator of the project emailed me about an opportunity for this year that I can take advantage of."

ISU sophomore Britany Dean helps remove debris from a mountainside in Los Angeles. Courtesy Photo
Britany Dean
Britany Dean worked with other university students across the United States helping to clean up after flooding in the Los Angeles area. Courtesy photo

Writer: Lana Schrock, media relations assistant, Indiana State University Communications and Marketing, 812-237-3773 or