A group of eight University of Illinois Springfield students and one adviser will spend their spring break helping to rebuild Florida following Hurricane Ian as part of an Alternative Spring Break (ASB) trip.
"We knew that Florida was hit hard this year by Hurricane Ian, and we wanted to use our spring break to help out as people and organizations recover,” said Amanda Jones, ASB student president. "We chose Fort Myers because they were one of the hardest hit places by the hurricane and are in need of assistance.”
The students will clear trails at the Calusa Nature Center, sort donations at the Harry Chapin Food Bank and Salvation Army and assist with pop-up needs at the Bonita Wonder Gardens.
"By helping the two nature centers after the hurricane, we play a small part in the extensive eco-restoration efforts happening in the area right now,” Jones said. "There are many people in the area who were also financially devastated by the storms, so assisting food pantries sort donations is an important piece of helping reduce food insecurity for these people.”
This trip marks the 14th anniversary of Alternative Spring Break at UIS. Students first traveled to South Dakota in 2008 to help Habitat for Humanity with a building project. Since then, they’ve traveled to Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas helping with disaster relief, eco-restoration efforts and early childhood education programs. Students have also helped to feed the homeless in Indianapolis, New York and Washington, D.C.
"I wanted to participate in ASB because it allows a fun-filled spring break that serves the greater purpose of helping a community in need and making a difference,” Jones said. "In my experience, and many other students can say the same, ASB is far more fulfilling than the typical vacation, as we get to have fun, create bonds with the team and most importantly leave the community we went to knowing that we made a positive impact.”