ELKHART — For many college students, spring break often means sun and sand. For 11 students from Boston University, however, it means volunteering and making a difference in a place far from home.
Each spring break, Boston University’s Community Service Center sends out groups to all parts of the country as part of its Alternative Spring Break program. The students receive no payment or credit for their work, simply an opportunity to serve in communities around the country. The university has been sending teams to the Elkhart area since 2008.
The group from Boston has come to Elkhart this week to volunteer with LaCasa Inc. in restoring a duplex on Chapman Avenue near the center of town. They arrived Sunday, March 10, and will work through Friday, March 15, before leaving Saturday.
Senior Amanda Calderon spent her two previous spring breaks volunteering on similar trips to Detroit and Honduras, though neither trip was through the school’s program.
“I really wanted the opportunity to do a spring break trip through my school’s Community Service Center,“ she said over the hammering of nails and whirring of a vacuum.
The students have spent most of their days redoing the floors of a duplex LaCasa plans to turn into affordable housing for low- to moderate-income families.
Other tasks have included everything from cleaning trim to caulking to insulating the basement of the building.
LaCasa construction manager William Tindle, who is helping to oversee the group while they work, appreciates the Boston groups coming each year and said they provide a great boost to the organization’s efforts.
“They’re always one of our best groups,” he said. “They pretty much double the production.”
Sophomore Dustin Na said his first experience on the Alternative Spring Break has been informative, even though he’s familiar with the type of work the group is doing.
Na explained that he has worked construction previously so the work itself is quite similar to what he’s done before. Apart from their volunteer work, however, the group has taken trips to Chicago and downtown Goshen and had dinner with an Amish family. “It’s been eye-opening,” he said of his first time in the Midwest.
Na’s reasoning for choosing to volunteer over spring break was pretty simple. “I wanted to volunteer and I wanted to do something physical,” he said. “It’s been hard work, but it’s been rewarding at the same time.”
“I’ve always liked to use my time away from school to volunteer in different places,” Calderon said of her decision to join an Alternative Spring Break group. “This is great because not only does it give back, but I also get the opportunity to travel to different parts of the country I’ve never been to before.”