While most youth across the country invaded various beaches to relax, party and get away from the school grind, a group of students from Auburn University spent their spring break in Gulf County last week on a mission to make a difference.
Three hundred students forming 25 construction crews positioned around Mexico Beach and Port St. Joe painted, leveled, pressure-washed, and performed repairs on buildings and homes within the community.
Relations with the community were further developed through street ministries and a basketball camp at Oak Grove Church.
The students are congregation members of First Baptist Church in Opelika, Alabama that for the past six years has worked alongside the Gulf County Christian Community Development Fund to coordinate projects for the students while they’re in town.
“There are some great hearts here,” said Lizzie Handlin, who spent her second spring break in Port St. Joe as part of outreach trip. “It’s the people that keep us coming back.”
The students see what their deeds sow.
“I love the positive impact it has on the community,” said Connor Bradley who celebrated his fourth year in Gulf County.
His crew was stationed at the Church of God in Christ in North Port St. Joe where they performed repairs and painted exterior walls.
Bradley noted that local residents look forward to their annual visits not only because of the assistance the group offers, but because they’ve built real relationships within the community.
Executive Director of the CCDF, Diana Burkett was thrilled with the response this year and praised the work of the visiting students.
“I’ve never met a student who isn’t polite and pleasant. They’ve really touched lives,” said Burkett.
Why would students want to give up a stereotypical spring break to focus on others instead of themselves?
It seems the answer is relatively simple.
“I get more joy out of helping others than just spending a week hanging out,” said Bradley.
Added Handlin, “I’ve been fortunate in my life; this is my way of giving back.”