Every winter and spring break, we take week long trips to a Habitat site somewhere around the US. Want to join us? We’ll let you know details about the trips through our listserv – sign ups for the winter trip generally start at the end of November, and during February for the spring trip.
17 students set out from College Park on a bitterly cold, rainy spring morning and began the nearly 20 hour drive, arriving in warm, sunny, Sebring, Florida. Staying in a deluxe volunteer apartment complete with bedrooms, kitchens, and a lounge, the students spent a week working with Habitat for Humanity of Highlands County on numerous homes. Alongside Americorps volunteers and other students from Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, they built walls and struts, put sheet metal down on roofs, put up vinyl siding, and even poured a concrete driveway, all while basking in the warm Florida sun.
After the workdays ended around 3, they spent their leisure time enjoying the local attractions. Many games of mafia, football by the lake, nature hikes through local parks, and visiting Downtown Disney World, there was certainly a lot to do. On the last day, they drove to St. Augustine to relax on the beach, after all, its spring break!
14 Students made their way to Raleigh, NC for a week of building with Habitat for Humanity of Wake County. They stayed in the children’s center of a church basement, all in one giant room, and everyone quickly became friends. They spent a day de-constructing an old stone factory, earning lots of money for the Habitat restore. The rest of the week, they painted and installed roofs and siding on their very own house!
The days in Raleigh were always busy with stuff to do. After building and cleaning up, the students spent their time playing mafia and board games, visiting nearby NC State, touring downtown Raleigh, bowling with a youth group, and, in true southern fashion, going out to a country music dance club! The meals were excellent due to the generosity of the church, all the students were invited to a mansion for a lavish dinner with a wonderful couple, and others constantly bought food for the students.
Being true Maryland fans, the students even visited Duke University, making sure to visit Cameron Indoor Stadium in full Maryland Attire. By sheer luck, the build trip coincided with the UNC-Maryland women’s basketball game, which was played at UNC, and the students went to cheer on the Terps!
Twenty students piled into two vans and made the twenty-hour trek to New Orleans, a city still recovering nearly two years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Flat tires and other setbacks aside (a special thanks to Walmart for their hospitality while replacing our tires), they arrived in one piece and quickly settled into their somewhat rustic accomodations at a rural volunteer camp. The group spent the week with St. Bernard Project, an organization working to renovate flood-damaged homes in St. Bernard Parish (parishes are Louisiana’s version of counties). St. Bernard Parish lies just east of New Orleans, and was arguably hit hardest by the hurricanes; floodwaters in the parish averaged 6 to 20 feet for over a week, and 100% percent of its homes were destroyed.
Students split off and worked on two homes at the same time. They spent their days installing new drywall and insulation under the sage direction of more experienced volunteers, and they spent their evenings either relaxing back at camp or reveling in the sights and sounds of New Orleans and its lively French Quarter. In lieu of Cici’s, buffet accomodations were provided by a beachfront casino on the last night of their stay. A week well spent.
A group of 20 students, split evenly between guys and girls, spent their spring break just south of Jacksonville. Hosted byClay County Habitat for Humanity, they spent the week at a Habitat house built especially for visiting volunteers, located right next to their work site in Green Cove Springs, FL. Students spent the week working on a house that was already half completed – they worked to finish the exterior by applying siding and put a few finishing touches on the interior framing. Working a less-than-usual 4 days gave the group plenty of time off. When they weren’t inside the house bonding around home-cooked meals or games of Taboo, they spent an inordinate amount of time at the beach, hitting up St. Augustine, Jacksonville, and Daytona multiple times by the end of the week. The group was also treated to a number of meals, thanks to Clay County Habitat’s deep network of community support. On the last full day of the trip, they were given a thank-you lunch at the local Elks Lodge; it was here that they would avoid near calamity. After lunch, while half the group broke up to play billiards and go fishing on the nearby lake, a small bunch decided to wander off into the nearby woods. They would get lost inside for hours before finally making their way out, in an incident that would come to be known as the ‘Hippie Walk.’ Though at first mildly traumatized, the lost students would later claim that their shared adventure in fact built character and brought them closer together.
Seventeen UMD students traveled to Punta Gorda, FL to work with the incredible Charlotte County Habitat for Humanityon multiple houses, as well as an almost-complete Community Volunteer Center. After spending twelve hours on I-95 in three shiny new vans, they arrived at Mr. Burnett’s place, where the campfire was already roaring. A morning of fishing off the dock turned into afternoon before they continued on to Florida, and their lodging for the week at the First Baptist Church. Mornings kicked off with a devotion, usually followed by a trip to the Habitat office for daily assignments, which for the first few days included a generous helping of painting, with some demolition and framing thrown in. After a shower at the YMCA and dinner at Fawcett Memorial Hospital’s cafeteria, mini-golf and trips to the Gilchrist Park shore and playground took up the first few evenings. For the last day-and-a-half’s building, the entire group descended upon Tunis Ave, hanging siding, nailing down tarpaper and completely framing the house. Afterwards they spent an evening at the beach, throwing in a sunset cruise and dinner at Cici’s. A return visit to the Burnett place on the way home was marked by fire-roasted grilled cheese and sleeping outside next to the fire, a most fitting end to an incredible trip. Charlotte County Habitat and director Ron Thomas deserve special thanks for the incredible level of support they provided for us over the course of the week–they thought of pretty much everything.
A group of 19 traveled to Bunnell, FL, stopping at the picturesque Burnett residence on their way down. It was here that a combination of skill and circumstance would bring one van to get caught in mud for hours before a tractor could finally pull it out. Setbacks aside, the group spent the night around the campfire, and rose early the next morning to fish under the sunrise. They continued to the church in Florida where they would stay, situated just two blocks from Flagler Beach. Under the fearless guidance of Flagler HFH, the group spent the week measuring, sawing, framing, and hammering, turning a slab of concrete into a nearly complete home. During balmy evenings off the group could often be found at the beach, in addition to going mini-golfing, clubbing, and taking a spoooky ghost tour of historic St. Augustine. Most nights the students would cook dinner in the church kitchen and eat together, and by the end of the week perfect strangers had become best friends.
Fifteen UMD students traveled to Miami, Florida to work with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Miami in Homestead, FL. After a twenty-hour (non-stop!) driving odyssey, they arrived in their lodgings in the Jordan Commons subdivision–composed entirely of houses built by Habitat–where they’d be spending the next week. After visiting an alligator and snake farm in the Everglades and hitting the beach for the afternoon, they woke up bright and early for the first day of work. On one of three houses, they tarred and nailed down shingles; on another, they demolished a sidewalk and prepared roof trusses; and on the third they installed roof trim. By the end of the week, they’d touched half a dozen houses with paintbrush, hammer or shovel and rake, closing in an entire roof with plywood, shingling most of another roof, and helping with numerous odd jobs on houses around the site. Card games (esp. hearts and rummy), foosball, Mafia and cooking took up a lot of their spare time in the evenings, which included the requisite Cuban dinner and trip to South Beach.