GSU recently wrapped up its very first Alternative Spring Break trip. It was a pilot program designed to serve impoverished Chicago youth. It was also designed to determine the efficacy of creating future more expansive Alternative Spring Break programs. We are pleased to say, that as a result of the dedicated twenty students that accompanied us on this trip, it can be called a success on both fronts.
The Alternative Spring Break trip began at GSU at 11:30 AM on March 19th, 2014 students packed themselves excitedly into the bus ready for whatever the day might hold for them. Students were treated to juice boxes, water bottles, gummy bears, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a whole mess of other snacks that had been loaded onto the bus for their enjoyment.
Our first stop was World Vision Chicago in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago. There we would serve from 1PM to 4PM. World Vision is one of the largest relief and development organizations in the world today. Our focus during this trip was assisting impoverished youth in neighborhoods in Chicago that do not often receive much relief or attention. WorldVision has a wonderful series of programs specifically related to children including the much lauded child sponsorship program. World Vision Chicago provides school supplies to teachers and students within the CPS network at little or no cost to them. We spent our service there helping with this program specifically. We were divided into teams, one team tore down temporary shelves and helped to reorganize and resupply their teacher supply area. Teachers come to the warehouse where they are presented with numerous school supplies in an area that looks very similar to an OfficeMax or Staples, they can then stock up for the semester or year. Our other team worked on restocking WorldVision’s mobile unit. WorldVision takes this mobile unit directly to various schools across the CPS network where teachers and students can take numerous school supplies such as binders, notebooks, pencils, crayons, colored pencils, etc.
After several hours of difficult work in the WorldVision warehouse we were all ready for a break. So, around 4:15 we hopped back on the bus and headed down the street to Austin’s famous MacArthur’s Soul Food Restaurant. There students were treated, courtesy of GSU to a full dinner buffet. We all were gratified with the skillful way the staff at MacArthur’s handled such a large group, and even had a separate area reserved for us. After some very delicious food, full and sleepy we got back on the bus and headed down south to visit the Greater Chicago Food Depository located in the Archer Heights neighborhood.
We started our service at the Greater Chicago Food Depository at 6 P.M. Several of our students were kind enough to bring several cans of food to this service site to donate before even beginning our service. The Greater Chicago Food Depository is the Chicago’s largest Food Bank, providing food to a network of over 650 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, mobile programs, and children’s programs. The Food Depository receives their food items in incredibly large bulk quantities, it was up to volunteers like us to break down these bulk quantities and repackage the food for individual distribution. Governors State University’s Alternative Spring Break group was given the task of unloading several crates of bread, checking their expiration dates, assessing the quality of the bread, and then if they passed both levels of inspection boxing them up and sending them out to the various organizations within the Food Depository’s network. Over three hours of work our students managed to send over three hundred boxes of bread, totaling 5,000 pounds, to these organizations!
At 9PM we headed back on the bus to GSU. We were tired from an extremely long day, but pleased with all the great service we had done.
Our student volunteers came primarily from a Psychology and Social Work background, education was also well represented.