For a group of UW-Stout students, spring break after a long, cold winter started a 4 a.m. Saturday in Menomonie when they piled into three vans and headed southeast.
With a few breaks to see the sights, they arrived late that day at their destination, Winston-Salem, N.C.
With no beaches in sight, It’s not the typical spring break trip for 15 college students. Their week mostly will consist of eight-hour days helping homeowners recover from Hurricane Florence, which devastated the Carolinas with flooding in September.
The university’s student chapter of Habitat for Humanity last year went to Houston, Texas, during spring break to help residents affected by Hurricane Harvey. In previous years over spring break, students have volunteered in Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina.
“You can’t really replace that feeling of lending a hand to somebody who really needs it,” said Seth Plenge, chapter president. “To hear their stories and the turmoil they’ve gone through — it’s unimaginable. The amount of help that people need is huge.”
Hurricane Florence caused an estimated $17 billion in damage in North Carolina, the most in state history.
Students, working with a local Habitat for Humanity chapter, expect to do quite a bit of deconstruction, or helping homeowners remove damage and salvaging materials to prepare for rebuilding. They also could be doing some framing, roofing and hanging doors.
“It’s amazing how long deconstruction can take. Any material saved can be used by homeowners or by Habitat for Humanity for other projects,” Plenge said.
Plenge, of Bangor, is a junior majoring in construction. Other students on the trip are from a variety of majors, such as game design, packaging, interior design, applied science and business administration.
“One of the biggest things we stress is that you don’t need any experience. We have enough expertise to share, and when you team up with people they can help teach you as well,” Plenge said, noting that their group also will pair with a group of traveling retirees who do similar volunteer work.
Plenge is a hurdler and captain on the UW-Stout track and field team.
The UW-Stout Habitat for Humanity chapter, which has about 26 members, also volunteers in the Menomonie area throughout the school year, such as helping local homeowners cut down trees, replace gutters or do other small repair jobs.
Spring break is Monday, March 25, to Friday, March 29, at UW-Stout.
Students from UW-Stout’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity volunteer in 2018 in Houston, Texas, during spring break.