Spring breakers are back, rebuilding homes for veterans

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - College students from across the country are back in South Mississippi and they are ready to get to work. On Wednesday, Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast kicked-off its Alternative Spring Break program "Collegiate Challenge."

From now until the end of May, 153 students will be rebuilding houses. But some of those projects have nothing to do with storm-damaged homes.

For the past three years, students from Western University in London, Ontario, have been traveling all the way from Canada to help rebuild South Mississippi.

"We sympathize with the Hurricane Katrina disaster and that's what draws people to come. But we also love the weather, especially compared to our cold times right now. So everybody loves coming down," said Daniel Kahn, a college junior now helped organize the rebuilding trip.

This week, 30 Canadian students are spending their spring break working with Habitat for Humanity on three houses in Pascagoula and Ocean Springs.  However, this time, the volunteers aren't just helping storm victims.

"We still have some Katrina-damaged homes, certainly. But this week, our Collegiate Challenge, one of the teams is working on our first Vet Initiative. So we're working on a veteran's home, doing some repair and rehab, and that's a new project for us," said Adele Lyons, Habitat for Humanity's Director of Development.

The home they are fixing up belongs to Vietnam Veteran Tom Sullivan. The students are repairing the roof and enclosing the porch.  Eventually, the home will have a wheelchair ramp.

"I think it's wonderful that they do that for the community and the veterans. I love it. I couldn't do it without them," said Sullivan.

Habitat will host a celebration at Mr. Sullivan's home Thursday afternoon to officially kick-off the Veterans Initiative. For the Canadian volunteers, building hope for those in need is a rewarding experience.

"It's exciting and I love volunteering and helping out. So I thought it was a great opportunity," said Jaclyn Longo, a college sophomore.

"I like making a positive contribution to the community wherever it is," said Kahn. "This is a nice initiative and it's a nice place to be."

Ten colleges, universities, and church groups are participating in Collegiate Challenge this year.

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