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Spike in Student Volunteers Brings Assistance to Community Programs in Mississippi

By Rhonda Miller | Published 18 Mar 2011 10:08am | comments
Student volunteers with Hands On Mississippi relax after fnishing their final project of the week -clearing a trail at Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Moss Point.

There’s been a spike in the number of students volunteering in Mississippi during Spring Break this year. MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports that public service and warm weather are an attractive combination.

Students from the University of Wisconsin Madison just finished a morning of clearing trails at Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Moss Point. Nineteen-year-old Jordan Chacon says this is just one of the projects the group has done this week.

"Every day we’ve kind of been going out to help the community in some way," Chacon said. "We worked at a teen center, we went to an animal shelter, we helped deconstruct a house destroyed by the hurricane and then today we’re out clearing the trail here."

The students signed up for this Alternative Spring Break through Hands On Mississippi, based in Gulfport. They say the variety of worthwhile projects and warm weather attracted them. Marie Ostrander is Volunteer Coordinator for Hands On Mississippi.

"It’s been a huge boom this year as far as volunteers," Ostrander said. "Spring break last year we had about 100 volunteers total and this year we’ve got about 400."

She says the increase might be from media attention to the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina last August and the BP oil spill.

Students from Washington State and Portland, Maine are arriving soon. And other non-profits, including the United Way and the Audubon Society, are also sponsoring Alternative Spring Break in Mississippi this year. While there’s still some Katrina recovery, the students are volunteering in a variety of community service projects, from helping people prepare tax returns to staffing soup kitchens to shampooing dogs in an animal shelter. 

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Student volunteers with Hands On Mississippi relax after fnishing their final project of the week -clearing a trail at Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Moss Point.


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