Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Since 1907
Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Calvin’s Service Learning Center provides spring break opportunities to work in disaster relief

Courtesy Annie Mas-Smith
This group from 2019 was one of the last groups to go on SLC spring break trips before the pandemic. The revival of these trips hopes to reinvigorate student opportunities and offer historic Calvin programs that were paused due to COVID-19.

For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, Calvin students will have the opportunity to travel around the United States with the Service-Learning Center over spring break. Service-learning trips for spring break 2024 will take Calvin students to three communities in Florida and Kentucky to do disaster relief work. 

One of the trips is a partnership with the Life and Career Studies program in Mayfield, Kentucky. On this trip, students will have a chance to do service work that will focus on rebuilding efforts after tornado damage during December 2021.

The Service-Learning Center (SLC) is also partnering with Calvin’s TRIO office to run one of the trips. This trip will take students to Bithlo, Florida –– a community outside of Orlando –– to work on rebuilding homes damaged by Hurricane Ian. The third trip will take students a little over three hours away to Fort Myers, Florida, where they will also work to rebuild the damage done by Hurricane Ian.

The SLC is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2023-24 and has a long tradition of running service trips for Calvin students over spring break. “There was a time when we were running a dozen or more trips every year, but over time those connections waned,” Annie Mas-Smith, Calvin’s director of Service Learning, told Chimes

The COVID-19 pandemic marked the temporary end of SLC service-learning trips, but Mas-Smith is “very excited” to work on bringing these opportunities back to the Calvin student body. To reinvigorate the program, the SLC has contacted various organizations for help with logistics and coordination.

Chris Gibson, a 1989 Calvin alumnus and current Group Programs Manager for World Renew Disaster Response Services, is partnering with the SLC to help restart service trips. Gibson participated in SLC service trips during the summers of his junior and senior years at Calvin. “I’m thrilled to get a chance to work with Calvin students again on something like this because it was such a life-changing experience for me,” Smith said. 

World Renew will help organize the trips to Fort Myers and Mayfield by managing logistics and connecting Calvin with local partner organizations, who will be making “all the significant decisions” about where to deploy and distribute volunteer work, Gibson said.  

In North America, World Renew focuses primarily on disaster relief efforts. Smith told Chimes his work is mostly “finding good partners like Calvin, or church groups who can send volunteers that will help our community partners recover from those storms.”

Reagan Visker, a junior who works for the SLC, will be helping lead the trip to Fort Myers. “I think programs like these trips are a great way for students to put what they learn about servant leadership into practice helping others,” Visker said. 

Mas-Smith hopes to see the renewed spring break programs grow in the coming years. For those who didn’t sign up for a trip this year, she emphasized that the SLC has many ways to serve the local Grand Rapids community as well. Throughout the year, the Service-Learning Center organizes blood drives and offers many opportunities to volunteer at local food banks or refugee centers. “Our goal is to connect Calvin students to service opportunities in our community, both the Grand Rapids community but also wherever life takes them after graduation,” Mas-Smith said.

Students interested in connecting with service-learning opportunities through Calvin can visit the Service-Learning Center in the Spoelhof University Center 301 or reach out via email at [email protected]

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