In September 2022, a category four hurricane struck Florida. Fort Myers, Florida was devastated by the destruction. Northwest organization Alternative Spring Break traveled down to help rebuild and provide for the community.
In Fort Myers, the organization helped restore old buildings and churches that had been destroyed by Hurricane Ian. The group also helped at a food bank. The main part of Alternative Spring Break is volunteering and providing service for places in need.
President Elisha Westover and Vice President Sage Thelen said Alternative Spring Break is a heavily student led organization and a fun opportunity to be a part of.
“I felt like I was actually able to help people but also visit different places and kind of experience and broaden my horizon and my mindset,” Westover said.
Westover has been a part of Alternative Spring Break since 2020, when the trip was canceled because of COVID. She said she has not seen a normal trip, but the organization being student led and trial and error is the new normal.
This year, seven students attended the trip — no Northwest faculty attended with the students.
“I’m excited for our food pantry, especially because we’ll get to talk to some of the people in the community and learn more about life in general,” Westover said.
Westover said the organization has been getting smaller throughout the years, but she hopes to see more people join and continue the group because everyone on the executive board are seniors. The program's academic adviser Amy Nally is also going to be retiring soon.
“We do kind of fear for the future of this club because we are diminishing in members, so we are looking for more young people to join our group,” Westover said. “It’s a great organization, and I hope people continue that. It’s a little scary leaving it.”
Both Westover and Thelen said fundraising is a very important part of the organization. Members each pay $150 to be a part of the club then continue to fundraise the rest of the year. For the last two years, the entire trip has been paid for through the fundraising and the membership fee.
On top of fundraising, there is a lot of budgeting that goes into the program to make sure it is as cost efficient as possible. Thelen said the club recognizes that cost is something potential members are worried about, but the organization wants this to be as accessible as possible to students interested in joining.
“We’re trying to instill sustainability of the program,” Thelen said. “It’s not an expensive program.”
The group does not go to the same place every year. Last year it did beach restoration in Panama City, Florida. While on this trip, they learned about beach erosion and the native wildlife. Westover said making connections while on the trips is a great experience.
Alternative Spring Break hopes to continue to provide help to places in need in the coming years and grow in its numbers.
“It’s something that you can really fall in love with after your first trip,” Thelen said.
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