Spring breakers pick up paint brushes in Ocean Springs - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Spring breakers pick up paint brushes in Ocean Springs


By Steve Phillips – bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - They traded their blankets and beach towels for ladders and paint brushes.

College students from Boston to San Francisco are spending their spring break helping restore historic properties in Ocean Springs. The young people say they're dedicated to "making a difference."

Historic Twelve Oaks is among the properties getting a makeover. College students like Kristen Baldiga from Massachusetts chose community service over partying on the beach.

"I've been really fortunate and I've had a great community always supporting me, so I wanted to really give back and help some people," said Baldiga. "I feel like it's really exciting to be around a bunch of young college kids that are all really dedicated to making a difference. So, it's a great feeling to have and great group to be a part of."

For many of these young volunteers, it's their first visit to Mississippi.

"I especially wanted to come down to the South ever since the hurricane touched down, but every year new circumstances arose and I wasn't able to do it, so I'm really happy to be here," said Melanie Jones, who attends college in San Francisco.

"Everybody heard about New Orleans, but we decided that Mississippi had a little less press about it, so they might need a little more help," added Connor Elkington.

The Mississippi Heritage Trust received Katrina relief grant money to pay for the restoration project.

They may be working on spring break but these young people are still cranking the music and enjoying each other's company.

"We needed some music out here. Some of us are singing. Some of us are not singing," said Melanie LeGrande.

But all are dedicated to helping the United Way in making a difference.

"People from all over the U.S.  There's a few Southern people. Some New Yorkers, people from the West Coast. So, it's a great mix and we're having fun. Definitely a great bonding experience," said Baldiga.

"I work for the Baltimore Ravens and so the NFL has a great partnership with United Way and so I looked for a chapter that was doing something exciting. And down here in Biloxi-Gulfport, they're doing some great things, so I came down," said LeGrande.

The Twelve Oaks property is owned by the Mississippi Land Trust for the Coastal Plain. The property adjoins Fort Bayou and features several trails used by hikers and bird watchers.

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