University of Memphis Photo

Alternate Spring Break 2008

While most college students look at Spring Break as a time to relax, five University of Memphis students spent their break installing cabinets and painting walls.

This group, through the U of M Alternative Spring Break program, traveled to Amarillo, Texas, and volunteered with Habitat for Humanity March 1-8. Kandice Dortch, Nicole Oliver, Kathlyn Walter, Kylie Ware and Tara Woodard worked at three Habitat for Humanity properties. Angie Dunlap, U of M coordinator for student activities, accompanied the group.

“This was such a great experience,” said Dunlap. “Their work ethic was incredible, and they had a great spirit about them that was amazing to witness.”

Alternative Spring BreakThe group worked 228 total service hours, doing everything from cleaning floors and removing old nails to installing lighting fixtures and pulling up carpet. The work was hard, Dortch said, but worth it.

“I was amazed with our group,” said Dortch, a senior marketing management major. “I didn’t know I could accomplish some of the things I did. This was such a rewarding experience.”

Dunlap added, “When they finished a project they would just turn around and start another one. They didn’t stand around and wait for someone to tell them what to do.”

It wasn’t all work though. The group did have a free day on Sunday. They visited the Cadillac Ranch and Palo Duro Canyon, the second largest canyon in the United States.

“Most of them also saw tumbleweed for the first time,” said Dunlap. “We wanted to expose them to another culture, and hopefully that will give them a better sense of their own culture.”

The group also went to the Big Texas Steak Ranch, an Amarillo mainstay famous for its 72-ounce steak. The young women arrived in style as Habitat for Humanity arranged for a limousine to chauffeur them to the steakhouse. But no one dared take on the 72-ounce challenge, where the meal is free if you eat the steak, a roll, baked potato, ranch beans, shrimp cocktail and salad in under an hour.

“That was too much food,” said Dortch. “That was just a wonderful night, though. We had so much fun the entire week, but we were also able to do something meaningful.”

The group even met a woman that would be living in one of the houses. This woman and her daughter had been waiting for their home since August, but various construction setbacks delayed the process. However, the U of M Spring Breakers sped up that process, and their help allowed the woman to move in two weeks later.

Alternative Spring Break“She gave each one of us a hug as if we were long lost relatives,” said Dortch. “She was almost in tears expressing her gratitude. Listening to her talk reassured me that the work was worth it.”

In its seventh year, the U of M Alternative Spring Break program offers students the opportunity to serve the community and hopes to create a lasting relationship between the student and service. Since its inception, the program has worked in various locations, such as homeless shelters in Houston and Hurricane Katrina relief efforts in Bay St. Louis, Miss.

This was the second time the Alternative Spring Break program has teamed up with Habitat for Humanity. The program worked with Habitat several years ago in High Point, N.C.

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