February 17, 2010

Students to spend spring break volunteering

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A group of students from Southern Illinois University Carbondale is heading south for spring break 2010, but they’re not heading to the beach to party. Rather, they will participate in Habitat for Humanity’s alternative spring break program, building homes for families in need of a helping hand.

During the week of March 6, more than three dozen SIUC students will travel to one of three sites: Goldsboro, N.C.; Myrtle Beach, S.C., or Miami. They will volunteer their time and energy through Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge, helping families get suitable and affordable home.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to spend my spring break making a difference, helping a family achieve home ownership. This will truly be a memorable spring break,” said Antoinette “Toni” Manzella, a senior social work and psychology major from New Lenox who is a group leader for the alternative spring break.

Each year between February and April, Collegiate Challenge participants travel to any of 200 Habitat locations to help. More than 168,000 college students have participated in the program during the past 21 years.

Despite the fact that each of them has a full load of classes, members of the Saluki group have been actively fundraising since November between homework and jobs to cover the expenses of their humanitarian trip. Manzella expressed appreciation to the Carbondale and Murphysboro Wal-Mart stores and Carbondale Kroger for allowing students to collect donations at those locations. Each group is covering its own expenses for necessities including food, gas and lodging for the trip. Manzella said fundraising has been a bit tough but contributions are picking up and the students are hopeful they’ll raise enough funding to cover their expenses. Even small donations will help them help others, she said.

Habitat for Humanity International is an ecumenical Christian ministry working to eliminate substandard housing. Since its founding in 1976, the group’s volunteers have built, rehabilitated or repaired more than 350,000 homes worldwide to house more than 1.75 million people. State Farm is a national corporate sponsor for the organization’s youth programs, giving more than $1.1 million in grants annually along with additional contributions by the insurance company’s offices to Habitat for Humanity affiliates in the U.S.

The SIUC students will return to campus March 14.

To learn more about the alternative spring break Habitat for Humanity trip or to contribute to the expenses the students will incur for their charitable expeditions, e-mail Manzella at tonim411@siu.edu.