Tuesday, April 16, 2013
NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. - Westminster College students participated in two "Spring Break with a Purpose" work trips in March. Westminster Trustee and alumna Robin Gooch `75 and three staff members joined the students on the work crews.
Each year, members of Westminster's Chapter of Habitat for Humanity take trips to different locations to help others in need as part of their spring break. This year members traveled to Athens, Ga., and Maryville, Tenn.
The group in Georgia moved a hillside in order to grade and lay the base for a playground for the children and families of The Foundation at East Broad, a revitalized apartment complex in what was formerly one of the worst neighborhoods in Athens.
The steep parking lot stretching from East Broad Street to the top of the complex was, until about 18 months ago, the main corridor for drug traffic in Athens. It stretched from the public housing in the community above The Foundation, called the "Iron Triangle," to the meth lab houses just a block below. Clarke County, where Athens sits, has the highest depravity statistics in the nation.
"Athens Habitat began to implement a strategy: buy houses in particular neighborhoods that will become the impetus for change in those neighborhoods. That mission could already be seen in the persons and families occupying the renovated apartment buildings above and below the playground we began," said Carey Anne LaSor, assistant to the College chaplain. "We felt safe and as though we may have been in our own neighborhood. There were a lot of broken bottles, shotgun shells and more mixed in the dirt we moved as a reminder of the history of that complex."
LaSor continued, "In many ways, this team's efforts were about extending blessings to those whose faces and names we may never know and realized together that blessing those whose situations are insufficient, those who desire safety and good things for their children, and blessing those whom society tries to forget, is a lifelong way of living built on the foundation of our own blessings. And, we decided we have many."
The students who traveled to Tennessee helped a couple build a new home, sorted clothes and painted at one of Habitat for Humanity's ReStore outlets. In doing so, students were able to personally connect with everyone they met.
"You get to meet really exciting people and learn about their life stories," said senior Jaimie Flaherty. "You just get to bond with a lot of new people, making the entire week a great experience for helping others in need."
College Chaplain the Rev. Jim Mohr said, "The concept of Spring Break with a Purpose is that you are using your spring break to do something that can make a difference somewhere. Our devotion time was mainly focused on connecting with and helping other people."
Jenna Huston, Westminster College Habitat for Humanity president, agrees with LaSor that the Habitat trips also offer a chance for participants to reflect upon how fortunate they really are.
"There are so many things in life that can lead you to a place that you really don't want to be in. We are fortunate to be at a school where we have food and shelter, and I really think being fortunate is just a huge reminder not to judge other people that are less fortunate," Huston said.
"Westminster is a national leader in student involvement in community service and civic engagement," President Dr. Richard H. Dorman said. "Previously participating in a Habitat work team during a spring break, I personally see how such community service augments the educational experience of our students and helps to change not only the lives of those being served, but also of the students performing the service."
Westminster has earned The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll recognition every year since the program was launched in 2006. The Community Service Honor Roll is the highest federal recognition a school can achieve for its commitment to service-learning and civic engagement.
Contact Westminster's Office of Faith and Spirituality at (724) 946-7117 for additional information.