“[Monday] was an insane amount of work, but it was awesome,” junior Tori Sims said Tuesday morning as the group convened to establish their game plan for the rest of the day. “... You come in thinking you’re going to have an impact on others, but [Alternative Spring Break] really impacted me.”
“I think it’s great that we’re able to serve our community and we don’t have to go somewhere far away. There are people right here in our community that we can help,” junior Elise Hart added. “Sometimes I think people don’t realize how easy it is to go out and help people right in our own backyard.
“... I think at some point it became uncool to give to other people, and we seem to take the selfish approach, like go to the beach and do something for yourself. But we’re really having a great time and building relationships [with residents and among volunteers].”
Originated last year by current seniors Tommy Morrison and Jake Andersen, this year the ASB event included several second-year participants as well as some newcomers, like junior Noah Harper, who explained, for example, the ASB group would be setting up a photo booth Tuesday so shelter residents could take humorous spring break pictures.
“Spring break is not really a necessity. Some people can’t go to the beach every spring break, ... and so why not spend it together with [shelter residents] who can’t go to the beach,” Harper said.
He said the ASB also helped him gain experience he can apply to future volunteer work.
“A lot of things you’re doing are hands-on things you’ve never been able to do, like staining, and ... you learn while you’re doing it,” Harper said.
Following the workdays, ASB participants engaged in a one-hour reflection period each night where they discussed the importance of servant leadership and lessons learned during the day. Participants then shared dinner and an activity, such as bowling or a movie.
When the work is done, the group will go to Blue Ridge at the end of the week for kayaking, rafting and hiking.
Advocates Director Patty Eager said she appreciates the work of the students and volunteers involved in the ASB project.
“We are delighted they have chosen to give part of their spring break to make a difference for kids right here in their own community. You don’t have to go off far away from here to do a mission trip and make some improvements,” Eager said. “One of the biggest and most visible things they did was raise the beds. That was a unique thought. ... They thought it out and figured out how to do it, and the kids are delighted now because they have much more space to store stuff. And it seems that kids that are living at Flowering Branch tend to have lots and lots of stuff.
“We sometimes think it’s because they’re making up for other losses in their life, but they do tend to accumulate belongings and want to hold on to them, so we’re really happy they now have space for a little bit more of their treasures.”
Shaw Industries provided the carpet for the project and Tony Martin provided all materials and guidance to build the bed risers. Mattress Unlimited donated materials for the replacement of new mattresses. This year’s CHS ASB team included Jake Andersen, Tommy Morrison, Elise Sims, Tori Sims, Laura Cottongim, Elise Hart, Noah Harper and Ashley Edwards. Other volunteers included Christian Martin, Robert Sims and Scott Ingle.