Alternative Spring Break trip focuses on stopping hunger
Participants of this year's Alternative Spring Break trip to Orlando in April
said their experiences were life-changing.
The group of nine students and three staff members worked with Community Food
and Outreach Center in its grocery and thrift store, and in the warehouse of Stop
Sarah Carter, a senior from Riverdale, said the trip brought her face to face
with the problem of hunger, and has inspired her to make it a personal mission
to find ways to provide food and natural resources to the hungry.
"Knowing that a child goes to bed hungry every night truly bothers me," she said.
"I will do everything I can to make that stop."
The Rev. Blair Tolbert, Director of Student Ministries, said this ASB was designed
to be a little different.
"The unique experience about this trip is how students reflected and engaged with
agencies that are helping to end local and global hunger," she said. "I was touched
by how hard they worked, and what they gained personally and spiritually."
There was time for fun, though, as the group spent the first day of the week at
Universal Studios Islands of Adventure.
"We rode all the park rides we could," Sarah said. "I hadn't been on a roller
coaster since middle school, but I had a great time."
On Tuesday, they checked in with Community Food and Outreach Center to begin their
"We unfolded donated items, hung them on hangers and put them in the appropriate
section according to gender and age," she said. "Then we went to the grocery store
to help restock shelves."
That activity provided Sarah, a sociology major, with a chance to put her studies
to good use.
"As a sociologist, doing qualitative research is a big part of studying and reading
people to learn where they are in their lives," she said. "That store opened a
new avenue of people’s lives that are affected by changes in society. I was honored
to hear their stories."
She also noted that the customers were not what she had expected.
"They serve mostly the working poor, people who have low-paying jobs and are trying
to do the best they can for their families. Very few of them are homeless."
For Rob Dicks, Director of Athletic Training and Compliance, this was his first
ASB trip, but it won't be his last.
"It was a great time of service, and I was able to see a different side of each
student," he said. "They were so gracious and hardworking."
Dicks also was impressed with how the students interacted with the people they
"It was a great feeling to see the students work so hard and help people of the
community," he said. "They made these people feel a sense of dignity in their time
For the rest of the week, the group worked with Stop Hunger Now, an international
hunger relief organization that coordinates the distribution of food and other
life-saving aid around the world.
Senior Stephanie Rojas of Costa Rica was on her second ASB with Tolbert, and she
said it brought her closer to God as she worked to help others.
"It surprised me to know that the real face of hunger is not Africa, as most people
expect it to be, it is Asia," she said. "I felt blessed by helping Stop Hunger
Now, helping to clean and organize bins, bags and equipment for the event they
were hosting, because I was helping to feed kids around the world."
The group worked at the warehouse to help SHN prepare for a packaging event.
"It was interesting to see what it takes to prepare, set up and travel to an event,"
Sarah said. "From an outsider’s perspective, you never realize how much work it
takes to put something together because you only see the finished product."
The first day, they counted bags, washed bins and took stock of everything in
the warehouse. Dicks and Blake Shuler also were able to demonstrate their carpentry
"We made a huge shelving unit about 10 feet tall and 12 feet wide to allow storage
for the many bins that were needed," Dicks said.
On Thursday, they helped organize and gather supplies before heading out to the
packing event Friday morning where 25,000 meals were to be prepared for shipping.
Sarah was particularly moved by an encounter they had with the woman who had planned
the event. The woman told the group that she was volunteering on her birthday in
loving memory of her husband who had passed away a few months earlier. He had loved
working with nonprofits such as Stop Hunger Now, and that being there was heaven's
way of blessing her.
"Seeing her expression of relief, joy, happiness and an overflow of emotion made
us all realize that it’s not about what we do, but what God does through us," Sarah
said. "That was something Blair really stressed to us."
The students also were trained to be student ambassadors for Stop Hunger Now.
"They are equipped now to engage and discuss with their peers about how to end
world hunger in their lifetimes," Tolbert said. "They are the very first students
to get that training."