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Spring Break With Power Tools

March 2011

Thirteen Ambrosians left the St. Ambrose campus March 12, in two vans–destination Charleston, South Carolina–for an alternative spring break trip as part of Habitat for Humanity International's Collegiate Challenge.

The team included: Shelby Smith, student leader, Chloe Aguirre, Brittany Anderson, Kevin Annis, Jaimie Joosten, Max Kalber, Alex Nedza, Jessica Pera, Laura Siddall, Alan Wendt, Jay Whitmore, as well as SAU staff members and Habitat advisors, Kathy Anderson and Mike Roederer. Seventeen hours and five minutes later, the team arrived at Asbury Methodist Church and was greeted by Dan Jones, construction supervisor for Charleston Habitat, and Eric Anderson '00, who now lives in Charleston.

In Kathy Anderson's words below, she describes the work the group spent on one home in Charleston. You can also view pictures of the group at their work site.

The work assignment was to remove and install roofing as part of a home renovation for Miss Dees, the selected partner family.

"It is unbelievable how much the volunteers are affected by the restoration work on the house," says Shelby Smith. "You can visibly see a difference in people's attitudes about doing manual labor for someone else when they realize that person's need."

It was a challenging task as the roof was severely damaged from water and insects. Under the guidance of two AmeriCorps volunteers, Jeremy and Mike, the team learned the right way to install shingles. This lesson included some trial and error! The weather was cooperative and allowed the team to complete the entire removal of the roof and install two-thirds of the new roof of Miss Dees' two-story home. Sandflies, common in this part of the country, also 'welcomed' the team and large red welts were evidence of their welcome.

Charleston is renowned for its hospitality, and the team experienced it during each part of the visit, on the work site, at a hosted dinner, and a visit to the College of Charleston (COC). It was at the college where the St. Ambrose team met with and participated in a leadership activity with COC students who had just returned from their own alternative spring break trip.

The team worked Monday through Thursday on Miss Dees' home. At a lunch celebration, the team presented Charleston Habitat with gifts, including an Isabel Bloom pineapple. The fruit is recognized as a symbol of hospitality in the southeast. Isabel Bloom created this sculpture for our local Habitat affiliate as a fund-raiser.

"We always expect to learn a lot on the job site," says Smith, "but it is usually unexpected what we personally and emotionally learn about ourselves and each other that is not always job-related."

The trip ended with a day of recreation on Friday. Alum Eric Anderson '00, Career Advisor for the COC, guided the group on a historic tour of Charleston and an afternoon at the beach. By 6 p.m., the team was packed up and starting the trip back to campus.

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