Spring Break Plunge
Every spring break, the CSL office offers students the opportunity to travel over spring break to perform a service trip somewhere around the country with a new location and activity for each year. Check out where students have gone in the past:
After years of traveling south or east each Spring Break to assist in disaster relief efforts related to hurricanes, floods, and tornados, we decided to stay closer to home to support those greatly affected by California’s most serious natural disaster – fire. At the beginning of March, during our Spring Break, students from the University of Redlands travelled to Paradise, CA, a town nearly completely destroyed by fire in November of 2018, to help with item retrieval.
For five days, we sifted through the ashes of Paradise homeowners to find items of importance. We found valuables such as rings, watches, coins, and dishes as well as invaluable items such as the urn and ashes of a loved one and a dog tag from a home owner’s military days. Unlike the demolition and/or rebuilding that our Spring Break Plungers have traditionally done on our trips, this year was a deeply emotional experience that had many of our students reflecting on what really is important to them. They recognized that material possessions are only one aspect of who we are. It’s the people, animals, and memories that are most important. We saw evidence of this time and time again as we helped home owners sift through the ashes of all their worldly belongings to find those items that connected them to the past and to those they cared about most.
A group of 17 students traveled to Texas to aid in Hurricane Harvey cleanup efforts. They worked on home demolition and repairs through organization Operation Blessing that has been on the ground since the hurricane event occurred.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Students traveled to Barton Rouge, LA to help aid in flood relief. In recognition of the office's 25th anniversary Spring Break Plunge Return to the area where is all started over 10 years ago. The need in Louisiana is still evident and the students work with Helping Hands in supporting rebuilding efforts in Baton Rouge.
Students and CSL staff worked to aid in tornado relief in Moore, OK. They worked with Serve Moore a new non-profit created after the severe storms dedicated to aiding the most needy in the community. Students demolished homes, placed tarp on homes to prevent water damage, laid flooring and distributed food.
Cottage Grove, Oregon
Dedicated to relieving suffering, improving health, and reducing harm to the environment through the design and delivery of highly efficient biomass cook-stoves and allied technologies Institutional Stove Solutions—InStove—is a 501(c)(3) non-profit humanitarian organization founded in 2012. University of Redlands students traveled to Oregon to help support the mission and work of InStove during spring break. They served in many areas of Cottage Grove and focused on marketing, physics and creating awareness.
The 2014 Spring Break Plunge, lasting from March 1 to March 8, had U of R students flying to Colorado to help with flood reconstruction efforts. In September 2013, the area was inundated with several days of heavy rain, with floodwater spreading over an area of 200 miles.
Every day, these inspiring volunteers awoke at 8 a.m. and worked tirelessly until sundown, providing aid by either working directly with some of the many victims of flood, rebuilding or clearing debris, or by working with after school programs and after school care.
The flood of 2013 cost nine people their lives, and 11,000 others had to be evacuated from the area, as nearly 20,000 homes were damaged, and more than 1,500 destroyed.
Truly, it was a community in dire need of assistance, and students from the University of Redlands leapt at the chance to help these unfortunate people reclaim at least part of their former lives.
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."
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 immersions 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.