Joyce Joens watched appreciatively as students from St. Ambrose University briskly scooped leaves into a blue tarp Sunday and dumped the lot into a trailer near the curb on her home on Davenport’s Vine Street.

More than 320 students set aside the books to help their neighbors during “Bee the Difference Day” for neighborhoods near campus. The St. Ambrose tradition was launched in 2006. This year, volunteers assisted 70 households Sunday with bagging leaves, cleaning gutters and other chores.

Joens said raking leaves is difficult for her because of back issues and without the help, she would need to hire someone to dispose of her leaves.

“It’s very helpful,” she said.

Neighbor Melanie Leadbetter smiled as she studied her lawn, after helping hands collected the deluge of autumnal glory.

“Look at our yard. It was completely covered with leaves. Now it’s completely clean,” she said happily.

The event was organized by students Antonio “Tony” Raya and Nina Costa of St. Ambrose’ Student Government Association. Recipients and students shared a meal at Rogalski Center after the last bags of leaves were set out for pickup.

Raya’s cell phone kept buzzing as the afternoon work commenced. Organizing the event began a month ago with students leaving fliers around the neighborhoods from West Central Park Avenue to Harrison, Locust, and Marquette streets. Many recipients are older people who find it difficult to keep up with Mother Nature’s largess.

“We do see ourselves as a St. Ambrose community, but we’re also part of the Quad-City community,” the sophomore said.

Warm sunshine coaxed temperatures into the 60s as volunteers contended with brisk winds that threatened to topple bags. Rakes scraped the ground and sun-dried leaves crunched underfoot as students tidied yards.

“It’s really a nice day out, and it’s nice to get to work outside,” Bernadette Muloski, a senior, said.

Breanna Neubauer, a senior, held the yard waste bag steady as freshman Mackenzie Doering trampled down leaves.

Neubauer who’s pursuing a major in English, philosophy and history, isn’t sure yet what career she’ll go into after graduation in May. However, she’s sure that spending a Sunday afternoon helping her neighbors was definitely the right thing to do.

“This time of year, it’s all about giving back to the community,” she said.

Doering of Rockford, Ill., is settling into her first year in college and life in Davenport.

“I feel I’ve never really been a part of the community — and this will help,” she said.