Hammer, saw replace beer and beach Break: Instead of heading to a week in the sun, more students are helping Habitat for Humanity and other programs.

March 02, 1997|By Eileen Canning | Eileen Canning,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Beaches, beer and bikinis may have defined college spring breaks in previous decades, but in recent years, many students have been throwing in their beach towels for more service-oriented adventures.

According to local colleges, lying on the beach is not as hot as it used to be. Instead of building sand castles, more recent students have chosen to build houses for depressed communities.

"The students really enjoy it. Many students say it's a better way to enjoy spring break than just spending time lying on the beach," said Keith Levi, the national Collegiate Challenge Coordinator for Habitat for Humanity.

The program was started in 1990 with 1,000 students and by 1996 had grown to 5,600 students. This year, more than 6,000 students are participating.

As the spring break season draws near for area colleges, some students are preparing for "working vacations" where they will be staying at a less glamorous YMCA rather than a resort hotel in Cancun, Mexico, or Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

They will be provided shelter by schools and will be fed by restaurants and church cafeterias that donate the meals.

According to Levi, the Habitat for Humanity program is visiting 10 different sites this year from Florida to California. Seven weeks are dedicated to each project. Students are sent to a site for one week, where they work with a construction supervisor helping to build the house from its beginning framework to the more final stages of putting on siding and roofing.

Students also get to work with the new homeowners.

"One of the most rewarding aspects about the project is seeing who will get the house," Levi said.

Joseph Purello of the Office of Campus Ministry and Community Service at Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg said that 27 Mount students are participating in service projects this spring break.

Twelve are traveling to Mobile, Ala., to work with the L'Arche International Community. These student volunteers will work on a variety of maintenance and repair projects for people with severe developmental disabilities.

Also, 15 students will assist in housing maintenance and construction projects in Sumter, S.C., with the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity.

"Spring Break Outreach," sponsored by the Center for Values and Services at Loyola College, offers a similar opportunity for students to help out in economically depressed communities across the United States.

John Webster, assistant director at the center, said students will be assisting in housing projects, tutoring children and working RTC with adult literacy programs.

More than 50 students accompanied by faculty and staff members of the college will venture to needy communities in Camden, N.J., Newark, N.J., Jackson, Miss., Ivanhoe, Va., and David, Ky.

Most students register for these programs in October after fulfilling campus chapter requirements.

For the Habitat for Humanity programs, students contribute $100 or so each.

Students raise this money in different ways. The Loyola students hold a raffle, car wash, bagel sale and car pool service to Baltimore-Washington International Airport and Penn Station before spring break.

Accommodations vary.

"Sometimes it's the basement of a church or a community center. Families sometimes offer a couch in their homes. One year, I remember, in Ivanhoe it was a fire station," Webster said.

Pub Date: 3/02/97

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