Alternative Spring Break trades sun for service

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) — Like many of his classmates at the University of Illinois-Springfield, Eric Loera is already looking ahead to his big spring break trip.

“It’s going to be the farthest I’ve gone, personally, to Texas,” Loera said.

But while his classmates are soaking up the sun on the beach, Loera is going to be gutting homes that soaked up a little too much water.

“We’re going to be doing demolition,” he said. “Tearing down the houses that were ravaged by the hurricane.”

Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Texas Gulf Coast more than six months ago. The storm then dumped torrential rains on southeast Texas — including more than 32 inches in Beaumont alone.

The winds have died down. The flood waters have receded. But the storm’s impact remains.

“It falls out of the news cycle and people forget they still need help down there,” said UIS freshman Ben Szalinski.

But those in need were not forgotten by the team in charge of the UIS Alternative Spring Break trip.

“When the hurricane was happening, there wasn’t that much we could do,” said organization president Hailey Hawkins. “I knew [our trip] would be a great opportunity for students to go to Texas and really help these people.”

The ASB crew plans to leave early Sunday morning and return late on March 17. The trip to Beaumont will be long — 800 plus miles await them — but it will give these students a chance to build homes and important service skills.

“Being able to travel down to Texas and meet other people…is going to allow me to be a better leader,” Loera said. “Away from home, you really start to see where you fit in the world and who you want to be.”

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