Bates students participate in alternative spring break

Twenty-four Bates College students and two chaperones head to Biloxi, Miss., April 15-20 for an “Alternative Spring Break” as Hands on Gulf Coast volunteers in a hurricane-ravaged community.

Organized and financially supported by the Office of the Chaplain, this justice-minded Bates volunteer corps will assist in the continued cleanup and rebuilding of two city sections. Since Hurricane Katrina’s devastation in 2005, Hands On Gulf Coast volunteers have made a huge impact on coastal Mississippi, says Bates Chaplain Bill Blaine-Wallace.

Blaine-Wallace and Associate Professor of Physical Education Marsha Graef will accompany Bates students to the beachfront city of Biloxi, where they will stay at the site of Hands On Gulf Coast. Some students will sleep in a large bunk room with outdoor showers, while others have chosen to camp in tents on the lawn. Student volunteers are in charge of cooking two meals a day, Blaine-Wallace says. “We will be doing demolition, yard work, clean- up, construction, transportation and work with children,” he says.

In collaboration with Biloxi City Councilman Bill Stallworth and the city of Biloxi, Hands On volunteers have assisted in the cleanup and rebuilding of two city sections, including the removal of trees from more than 600 sites, gutting more than 700 homes, walking hundreds of dogs, delivering countless supplies and feeding and housing more than 3,000 volunteers.

Prior to their departure, students have organized two fundraising efforts at Bates to offset the cost of the trip for each volunteer. On April 4, student participants host a “Gulf Coast Lunch” from 11:30 to 1:30 p.m. in Chase Lounge where, for $10, diners can support the trip by enjoying Cajun food prepared and donated by Bates Dining Services. Students also plan a silent auction of services and gift certificates from local businesses and individuals.

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