Hold the Turkey and Cranberries, Pass the Hammer and Shovel

From: Public Affairs

Nov. 25, 2008

Thirty-three people from James Madison University won't partake of traditional Virginia Thanksgiving Day feasts, but their works will certainly be cause for thanks in three states.

Three teams of students, each joined by a university staff member serving as a "learning partner," have embarked on service trips to Atlanta, New Orleans and Cayo Costa State Park in Florida through Nov. 30. Sponsored by Community Service Learning at JMU, the Thanksgiving trips connect students and learning partners with destinations long part of JMU's popular Alternative Break Program.

Working with national and international communities, the university's Alternative Break Program trains and immerses students in purposeful service experiences designed to connect students and community members while enhancing personal growth, mutual awareness and life-long learning.

A 10-member team will serve meals and help homeless people improve their employment possibilities in Atlanta. The group will work at Cafe 458, a restaurant-style setting that respects the dignity and worth of people. In addition to serving meals, the JMU team will proof resumes and help with mock job interviews.

In New Orleans, another 10-member team will help rebuild houses. Nine students and a JMU staff member will work with Student Advocacy For Equitable Recovery, an organization formed by Tulane University students shortly after Hurricane Katrina devastated parts of New Orleans. SAFER continues to spearhead construction work in New Orleans three years after the hurricane hit the Gulf Coast.

The JMU students anticipate meeting the families whose homes they will help rebuild.

Twelve students and a JMU staff member will work at Cayo Costa State Park, an island off the west coast of Florida, to remove invasive plants and do beach cleanup. The JMU team will carry all their supplies to camp on the island, a natural-state site with no stores and few amenities.

Each student on the three service trips paid $250 to participate.

The Alternative Thanksgiving Break program is an extension of JMU's popular Alternative Spring Break, which will occur March 7-14, 2009. More than 300 JMU students participated in Alternative Spring Break service trips in March 2008.

JMU Public Affairs contact: Janet L. Smith, 540-568-8008 or smithjl@jmu.edu.

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