Students from Southwestern University will be joining hundreds of college students from across the country who plan to spend their spring break helping rebuild areas along the Gulf Coast that were destroyed by hurricanes last fall.

Eleven Southwestern students and two staff members will be going to Long Beach, Miss., March 11-18 to assist with the Episcopal/Lutheran Relief Effort (see The students will spend the week rebuilding houses.

This service opportunity was presented to Southwestern by 2002 graduate Lee Livingston, whose parents live in Mississippi and have been involved with the relief effort.

“It was great to hear from a former student who was aware of Southwestern’s commitment to volunteerism,” said University Chaplain Beverly Jones, who coordinates the spring break program known as Destination: Service.

Gail Roberson, an admission counselor at Southwestern who will be one of the staff leaders on the trip, also has a personal connection to Mississippi. Her grandparents lived in Gulfport, Miss., (about five miles from Long Beach) and she used to visit there every summer.

“I don’t know if I’ll recognize anything,” Roberson said. “But I know this trip will really have an impact - on the students and on the community.”

The trip to Long Beach is one of six trips planned this year as part of Southwestern’s annual Destination: Service program. Other trips include: 

  •  Trail maintenance and other repair projects in New Mexico’s Gila National Wilderness.
  •  Construction of a surgical unit for Cornerstone Ministries in Nuevo Progreso, Mexico.
  •  Working with Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco to provide services for the homeless.
  •  Assisting with a variety of community outreach programs offered by the Martha O’Bryan Center in Nashville, Tenn.
  •  Building straw bale homes for low-income families in Sunland Park, New Mexico.

In all, 65 students and eight faculty/staff members will be participating in Destination: Service trips this year. This is the 11th year for the program, which began in 1996 with a group of about 30 students. In all, 485 and 52 staff/faculty members have participated in the program prior to this year.

“Destination: Service gives students a chance to get beyond campus and see the world from a different perspective,” Jones said. “All the agencies we work with are dependent on volunteers because they are trying to address concerns that our society has not made a priority.”


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