• Sure, a task like moving furniture, raking leaves, digging holes, removing snow, pruning shrubs, or weeding gardens may not be a military operation. But WPI’s ROTC Rent-A-Cadet program brings the two worlds together to get faculty members and community neighbors help with household chores—and Army ROTC cadets some needed funds for training.
The program has proven to be a win-win for the cadets and for homeowners in need of helping hands.
“We bring the gloves and everything,” and proper attire, says cadet Alexandra MacLaren ’16, but clients provide the necessary equipment for the job. This year, she says, there were more projects than cadets, with the program booked solid almost all the way through November. “It’s actually really fun,” to meet new people and work with fellow cadets, she says.
SERVICES IN DEMAND
Business has been so brisk, says cadet Andrew Vanner ’17, an electrical and computer engineering major from East Providence, that ROTC has had to pass some jobs along to the WPI rowing team, which also does yardwork and odd jobs to raise money.
Together, MacLaren, an environmental engineering major from Connecticut, and Vanner coordinate the program, which was started in 2012.
“If they need something done and don’t have the manpower, we really help out,” says Vanner of the Rent-a-Cadet clients. He said that having young people working at clients’ homes, in addition to promoting a positive image for the U.S. Army and the school, also brings in money to offset ROTC expenses: two formal dining events each year, new flags and rifles for the color guard, event bus transportation, and other costs.
BUILDING A CORE MARKET
Last semester, MacLaren said, the program raised $1,300. The pricing for projects is affordable, based on how many cadets work for a certain amount of time. For example, to hire four cadets for three hours, it’s $120. “I’ve heard our prices are very good,” says Vanner. “They don’t have to pay a landscaper to come out to their yard.” Repeat customers get a discount.
There have been more projects than cadets, and the Rent-A-Cadet program is booked through November.
Vanner just worked with other cadets for one of WPI’s nurses, who is selling her home and moving. Cadets moved furniture into a truck to go into storage, he says, which will then be moved again in a few weeks for the move into her new home. For another project, cadets helped out at a Worcester-area military veteran’s home. “He had a torn-up Iraqi flag, the first flag taken during the conflict there,” says Vanner.
There is no formal advertising for the Rent-a-Cadet program. Rather, services are marketed via on-campus emails and through word of mouth. Faculty members recommend the cadets to friends and family. Though the program is not year-round, it’s not impossible that it could be one day, says Vanner, and cadets could also work in the winter and spring, when school is in session.