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Spring Break Plunge 2013 – Breezy Point, New York
Instead of heading to a warm beach or the cozy confines of their hometown, 20 University of Redlands students spent their spring break in New York to help with Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.
“We usually decide in September or October where we are going to go, and look at different opportunities,” said Erin Sanborn, associate director of Community Service Learning. “When Hurricane Sandy hit, it just kind of seemed like things were coming together to go there.”
The group, which included Sanborn and two other staff members, spent February 24 through March 2 working in Breezy Point, a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Queens. They stayed at the Christ Community Church, where they slept on cots and lived without running water.
“We really were in it 24/7,” Sanborn said. “The church we stayed at had been wiped out and had been halfway rebuilt.”
The group worked in Breezy Point and the nearby Rockaways, which were devastated when they were hit by Hurricane Sandy in late October. Sitting where Jamaica Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, the neighborhoods were underwater, and late on October 29, a six-alarm fire broke out on Oceanside Avenue in Breezy Point. More than 100 homes were destroyed and 20 were damaged.
The students removed debris from walkways, homes and streets; installed insulation and sheetrock in houses and a future volunteer accommodation center; delivered building supplies to areas; leveled decks that had been washed off of foundations; removed old and moldy sheetrock and insulation; installed and repaired floors; and demoed houses.
“For me, I was kind of caught off guard by how bad things still are back there,” Sanborn said. “I knew some of the recovery would be slow because of severe winter storms, but I felt like it was so hard to find areas that hadn’t been impacted. We were on Long Island, on a peninsula, and there wasn’t anywhere you went that you could kind of get away from it.”
Spending the week hard at work helping rebuild a community brought the students together, Sanborn said, and opened their eyes to what had happened last October.
“By the end of the week, I think we had an authentic experience of what people had been going through,” she said. “A man said to us, ‘This was your life for a few days; it’s been ours for five months.”
Spring Break Plunge 2012 – Joplin, Missouri
The Joplin Tornado was the deadliest tornado in the history of the United States according to the National Weather Service. The EF-5 ripped through the southern town devastating neighborhoods, taking lives and demolishing 7,000 homes. The costly twister left behind a nightmare but failed take the courage and spirit of the people it affected. In the spring of 2012, University students and staff traveled to Joplin to assist and serve in the rebuilding effort.
Spring Break Plunges are alternatives to the traditional party motif of Spring Breaks. Students pay their own way to travel and serve others for a week-long outreach. Organized and subsidized by the Office of Community Service Learning, these service emersions can be life-changing. In 2012, students were housed in Abundant Life Christian Center, a non-profit church and outreach organization serving hundreds of families affected by the tornado.
Spring Break Trips aren’t what they used to be. They’re better!!!
Martin Luther King Jr. – Hands of Mercy
While many elect to enjoy a day off in memory of Dr. King, around 75 university volunteers decided to take a day “on” and build a house for a family in Mexico. It was truly an “I have a dream” morning on the U of R community basketball court when the local non-profit Hands of Mercy (HoM) pulled up with pick-ups filled with building supplies. HoM is a non-profit dedicated to building homes in the U.S. and then taking them to families living in extreme poverty. Students from organizations such as RYG, APO, Beta, FIE, Fairmont Hall’s Catalyst program, and several other students and staff from around campus, took the morning to construct the 20 by 20 home and load it onto a trailer bound for Mexico.
(A picture here.)
The MLK 2012 build is one of many portable homes built at the U of R and sent south. The experience of actually building a home for a needy family left participants feeling like they took Dr. King's dream seriously. Our partners from Hands of Mercy couldn’t have been more helpful and their lead on the project was most appreciated. This year’s build was co-sponsored by the Office of Community Service Learning and the Center for Campus Diversity and Inclusion. *A special thanks to all of our exceptional student volunteers for showing up in numbers…"you nailed it!"...so to speak.
Sorority Women and a Pillar of Service Team up for Roses
The Greek women of Pan-Hellenic and Lead Grounds Keeper, Eugene Jackson, have adopted the Elsie Krum Memorial Rose Garden in Sylvan Park across the street from the University campus. Eugene Jackson, the 2011 Frank J. Rice Memorial Service recipient, provides expertise in gardening and time to teach the women of Pan-Hellenic how to prune roses and tend the space. With city-wide budget cuts to maintenance crews, the service is highly valued by the City of Redlands. The gardens are both beautiful and fragrant and require Eugene to serve six hours a week tending the over 400 roses. In addition to being a wonderful facilitator and tutor for the Pan-Hellenic women, Eugene brings much needed experience to the magnificent space. He was the first African American grounds manager at San Joaquin Gardens and he’s also taken care of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew for her majesty the Queen of England.
Mother of Alum makes a very UGG Donation
The Office of Community Service Learning received an extraordinary opportunity to give back when Ann Griffin, mother of alumnus Gina Griffin, generously donated 100 UGG boots to the victims in Joplin, Missouri. After picking up the boots, the CSL office teamed up with United Way and UPS to have them shipped to Joplin. Arrangements were made to deliver the boots to Abundant Life Ministries located in the heart of Joplin where they were gladly received by Pastor Larry Bjorklund. Pastor Larry distributed the boots to needy families during the holiday season. The UGG’s were a symbol of hope and thoughtfulness during a time of recovery. This simple act of kindness sparked by Ann Griffin helped to restore a small piece of faith in a community that had been temporarily silenced by the F5 tornado. Our community is built on compassion and that compassion is mirrored in the heart felt efforts of Ann Griffin, the United Way and Abundant Life Ministries.