Coast sees a huge increase in Spring Break volunteers - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Coast sees a huge increase in Spring Break volunteers

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By Michelle Lady - e-mail

SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Every year since Katrina, gracious volunteers have flocked to South Mississippi to help out. But this year, a Hands On Mississippi volunteer coordinator said she is shocked by the numbers.

"It's pretty much an explosion compared with last year, so it's very impressive," Marie Ostrander said.

So far more than 400 students have opted to spend their weeklong break working with the volunteer organization.

"I think that it was the five year anniversary, so there was a lot of media attention to the five years. People got to thinking about it again, maybe. Then with everything with BP, the focus came back here to the Gulf," Ostrander said.

Habitat for Humanity Bay-Waveland has also been overjoyed with the outpouring of help.

"It hasn't gone down, which is the unusual thing to us. We kind of expected that over time," Executive Director Wendy McDonald said. "Actually, we are probably going to have more this year than last year."

Habitat of the Mississippi Gulf Coast is having to put people on a wait list because of the amount of interest in volunteering.

"They will just call, they want to come help, they want to be here," Volunteer Manager Austin Sabbatini said. "We usually don't have to go and look for them."

"They are absolutely amazing. There are weeks we are like, 'You need to slow down,'" Sabbatini explained. "They come down here ready to go, ready to work. Some are upset that our work week is Tuesday through Saturday. Some say, 'Why can't we work Monday?'"

"My admiration is that they choose to do an alternative Spring Break, versus the kind of Spring Break we took when I was young. It was all about us and this is all about someone else. And I think it's the spirit of these young people that is so inspirational," McDonald said.

It doesn't seem like the flood of volunteers will stop after the Spring Break Season. Sabbatini said Habitat Gulf Coast is already completely booked for the summer months.

Copyright 2011 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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