By Margaret Liendo
Service to the community is a defining characteristic in the curriculum of St. Joseph’s College. The campus is home to a variety of service-oriented opportunities and one that is largely known is Campus Ministry’s annual Alternative Winter Break service trip. Director of Campus Ministry Pat Tracy, who has participated in numerous other trips and whose focus is in helping to restore areas struck affected by natural disasters, heads the trip. This year’s Alternative Winter Break ran from January 12-18, a week wherein a group of dedicated volunteers headed to Moore, Oklahoma to help repair homes affected by floods and tornadoes.
“You don’t know how crazy a tornado can be because we don’t have them here,” Laeticia, a volunteer, mentioned as she took part in the work for the day.
The volunteers took part in rebuilding homes by tiling houses, removing debris such as a trampoline that was stuck in a tree and experiencing the inside of storm shelter. These areas were also affected by ice storms, which are worse than hail.
The volunteers also took down a 70-foot tin barn that had been in a tornado and blown from the adjacent property to about eight feet away with a few trees serving as a support. Volunteers had taken chainsaws and a pickup truck to remove the barn. It took about three days. Some of the corrugated tin was recycled as well as some wooden structures, which could be used for things such as firewood. The barn was eventually replaced with a 140-foot fence. Throughout the week volunteers were rotated to this site and the debris removal.
In this particular site, a group of volunteers from a high school from Illinois and a college from Missouri also came out and dedicated their time to help remove the debris. This is a great way of showing how, although there may be different individuals helping, they are all connected by their work and impact their work have on those affected.
During the week, 20 SJC volunteers and faculty member Jeannie Grega served a total of 560 community hours at six homes where 11 projects were worked on. Nine of those projects were completed while the rest are still ongoing. The total amount of debris that was removed was about 6,800 pounds or 2.3 gorillas per person. Thanks to the amazing work of the volunteers, Serve Moore, the religious-based relief nonprofit that volunteers served, were able to save $17,000.
The next service activity is the Alternative Spring Break which will take place from April 18-24 where volunteers will travel to South Carolina and work on homes affected by the heavy flooding. It will be a great experience and even though it may take a few days from your spring break, it will be a blessing for those families and a rewarding way to spend your days off!