BIRMINGHAM---A group of Samford University students spent their spring break on the Florida Panhandle, but the week in late March was no leisurely stroll on the beach.
Instead, their activity included filling dumpsters with the demolished remnants of a 92-year-old woman's home in Pensacola, Fla. The refuse was a result of the havoc caused in the area by Hurricane Ivan in September.
"It was alarming how much work was still to be done six months after the storm," observed Alisha Damron, leader of the Student Ministries group that assisted the Floridians.
"Some people are still living in tents along the highway," said Damron, a junior from Springdale, Ark. "Home repair costs have risen too high for the lower income families to even attempt to repair their homes and lives."
The decision to assist with Ivan relief was prompted by Samford junior Cheryl Smith, who, as a Pensacola resident knew what the students' presence would be to the residents.
The 32 hurricane relief volunteers worked in collaboration with the United Way and the First United Methodist Church of Pensacola.
They were among many Samford students who gave up their spring break to share their talents and minister to others in various ways.
The 33-member Student Ministries Choir sang at large Baptist churches in Houston, Texas, and Word Players performed at Baptist churches and a retirement home in St. Louis, Mo. Others remained in Alabama.
Six members of the Son Reflectors mime and interpretative drama group spent three days in Mobile creatively sharing their faith with children in low income housing and at a church.
In Perry County, a dozen Samford students continued on-going work in the rural area with the assistance of Sowing Seeds of Hope initiative. They sorted donated books for distribution to children, helped provide programming for youngsters at a community center and assisted at the local health department.
An eight-member Ville Crew team spent four days with young residents of Loveman's Village housing project in Birmingham. Although the group goes each Saturday to minister to the children, the longer hours on consecutive days provided more and better quality time.
"It was good to be with them for a longer time, because we could get to know them and their names better," reported Rachel Lowery, a junior from Hayden who has been a Ville Crew member for almost two years.
Daily activities included crafts, music, games and Bible story time. A highlight, said Lowery, was the basketball tournament that drew dozens of children and adults as players and spectators.
"That was very popular," she said of the neighborhood version of March Madness, which ended with trophies being awarded.