Take the plunge

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Spring break disaster relief trips yield eye-opening experiences for students.

Frankie Garrison ’16 didn’t have the typical Spring Break experience during his college years. Instead of relaxing at the beach or just sleeping in every day, he traveled to cities across the U.S. that were devastated by hurricanes, tornadoes and floods to help with relief efforts. Through the support of the Edward ’47 and Dorothy Wilcox ’47 Barwick Community Service Learning Endowment Fund, the Community Service Learning office has organized Spring Break Plunge since 2006, giving students the opportunity to go on a service trip somewhere in the U.S.; previous destinations include New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and Joplin, Mo., following a tornado. Garrison went on his first Spring Break Plunge during his freshman year, traveling to Breezy Point in the New York City borough of Queens.

“Our trip was in response to the devastation that resulted from Hurricane Sandy and we did a lot of flood and storm damage demolition and repair,” Garrison says. “It seemed like a meaningful way to spend my Spring Break giving back and it ended up being that and so much more.”

The participants stayed at a local church, where they slept on cots and didn’t have access to running water, causing the group to “really come together to figure out solutions,” Garrison says. More than 100 homes in the area were destroyed, and the Redlands contingent leveled decks, removed and installed sheetrock and insulation, removed debris and repaired floors.

“I saw how resilient and strong communities can become in the face of deep and extended hardships,” Garrison says. “When we first arrived in Breezy Point, we struggled with the lack of running water or bathroom facilities, but we rapidly realized that the challenges we were dealing with for our week-long trip had been ongoing challenges that were months long for the residents of our community. This was an eye-opening experience for me.”

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