Alternative Spring Break ROCKS! (and sticks, and leaves, and twigs…)

Ahh, spring break. That magical time of year when homework is scant, and the sandy beaches of parks and tourist destinations are filled with…volunteers!!!

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Each year there are a lot of people who “give up” their spring breaks for service. Lots of groups travel to Habitat for Humanity sites; to New Orleans for Katrina work; just about any other place you can think of that needs a helping hand. At Pass It Along this year, we are luck to have a dedicated group of Spring Breakers working with us to get Swartswood State Park into shipshape before the summer season begins in earnest in May.
After Sandy, the park had a lot of tree damage, and as a result, campsite cleanups are hampered this year by an excessive number of sticks and large branches that made raking up fall leaves a difficult task. With help from about 30 volunteers over three days this week, we hope to lighten the burden on the small number park staff tasked with taking care of the park’s 10,000+ acres, doing essential work that would take their employees a long time to complete, while tying up skilled maintenance workers and delaying projects that really require their trained eyes, hands, and special skill sets.

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I went out yesterday with a group of seventh and eighth graders that are visiting the area and completing an alternative spring break week through Pass It Along. The task was daunting; the day was cold; and the work was physical. Campsites full of storm debris in addition to the usual amounts of wet leaves and fallen sticks were a sight to behold. I watched as everyone absorbed the task that they were being asked to complete before them. Rather than lots of groaning and eye rolling at the prospect of several hours working, everyone rolled up their proverbial sleeves (not their actual ones though, as it was breezy and chilly) and got to work.
The next several hours passed in a whirlwind of raking, stick piling, neatening, tidying, and otherwise improving just under 30 campsites. It was amazing to see what a difference a group of people working together toward a common goal could make, and in such a short amount of time. While even I would admit that the last half an hour especially was tough, the accomplishments of the group made the hard work and hours outside in the cold weather worth it.

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I took today to work on things that needed my attention in the office, but I am looking forward to getting back at it tomorrow. Hopefully my biceps and back muscles will be recovered by then, too!
Written by Maren Morsch, AmeriCorps Program Associate

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