Volunteers lend a hand in Maryland

The Center for Service Learning and Last Minute Productions (LMP) co-sponsored a community service based Alternative Spring Break trip to Charm City’s Baltimore, Maryland. Twenty volunteers had the opportunity to make a difference in a foreign community and tour the city in their spare time. Almost every Spring Break, several alternative trips are offered to students, staff, and faculty for those who wish not to travel home, or remain on campus.

Student volunteers Ozzie Gonzalez-Alanis and Victoria Woods. Photo taken by the Center for Service Learning.

Lauren Olmo, was one of the many volunteers who signed up for this alternative Spring Break trip.

“By going to Baltimore we thought students would be able to get a new experience being that most of the students have never been to a big city like that before. We really liked being able to interact with different people and knowing that the work we were doing helped out so many people,” said Olmo.

Olmo stated the most enjoyable part of the trip was touring the different sites of Baltimore, and sneaking into the Orioles Baseball Stadium. The group volunteered at multiple sites, The Helping Up Mission and Manna House which are two homeless shelters, where they house 450 men that are struggling with addictions of their own. In addition to the homeless shelters they also volunteered at Habitat for Humanity and the Maryland Food Bank.

“It was a really good experience to see that they were dedicated to helping the men of Baltimore,” Olmo said, “Community service means a lot to me because, I am a part of a sorority; who prides herself on helping out others that are in need. To be able to give back is a big part of who I am.”

Assistant Director of the Center for Service Learning helped coordinate this trip, but didn’t get the opportunity to travel to Baltimore. The department chose to travel to this particular city because it was an area with a high poverty rate, homelessness, and they felt in offered a lot of services that could be provided by this organized trip. The purpose of many of their alternative trips is to provide an affordable service so students can travel to foreign cities that they may get to travel to on their own.

“The overall purpose of the trip was to meet the needs of the community, to make sure students had a good experience in a different city, absorb a new culture, and become aware that homelessness and poverty do exist even though we aren’t always exposed to it. A lot of students had not had experience with poverty before and we really wanted to expand their horizon on the issue,” Cooper said.

Cooper’s main goal was to make sure students were reaching out to communities besides our local one. The coordinators overall wanted a constructive experience where students could get the chance to interact with people who live a contrastive lifestyle to our own.

“Community service is so important because a lot of people at WCU have had support from others and being able to give back to the community and meet the needs of the community and contribute to the less fortunate,” Cooper said.