A group of spring breakers from Connecticut took a 26 hour bus ride to South Mississippi this week. Instead of hitting the beach on Tuesday, those college students headed into the woods and got to work. It was part of their mission to help restore areas ravaged by recent hurricanes.
It was not your typical image of a college spring break. There were students whacking overgrown bushes and clearing debris, then hauling all that junk 200 yards to a dumpster. But you won't hear any complaints from them.
"We're out here making a difference, because it matters more," said volunteer Aika Aluc.
The 34 students and two advisers are from the University of Hartford in Connecticut. They are spending first spring break in South Mississippi, removing hurricane debris, creating a nature trail, and restoring a habitat for migratory birds in Henderson Point.
"There's so much to be done and I never realized. It's like we're still cleaning up after Hurricane Katrina and that's just crazy to me," said volunteer Hannah Crosby.
"A lot of emotion goes through your head just seeing all the wood broken and then from time to time, you'll come across a toy or something like that of a child," said volunteer Logan Yerger. "It's so much more fulfilling to be here helping somebody out who really needs it."
The students had to apply and be selected to be a part of this community service experience.
"A lot of their friends are right now in Fort Lauderdale or Daytona and here they are in Biloxi, MS, and Ocean Springs. But to them, they get just as excited. They get pumped up at the end of the day, because they saw smiles on people's faces or they actually gave back," said Matt Blocker-Glynn, Community Services Director for the university.
"We really feel for the people down here. More than that, we're just impressed that they keep getting up and getting back to it and it really inspires us to keep going," said volunteer Hayden Harrower.
It may be messy work, but they seemed to be having fun. And they are helping a small community that can use some extra helping hands.
On Monday, the Connecticut volunteers also helped cleanup a church in Hattiesburg that was heavily damaged by a tornado. On Friday, they will plant Sea Oats to control erosion at Camp Wilkes in Biloxi.
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