University of Iowa officials are appealing to thousands of students to consider an alternative to a warm, sunny beach for Spring Break. Mary Mathew-Wilson, director of the U-of-I’s Civic Engagement Program, says hundreds of flood-damaged homes in Cedar Rapids still need attention and a massive weeklong service project is being planned next month.
Mathew-Wilson says, "What we’re looking for are people who can provide one day or two days or even all of their spring break to help out doing a variety of things." It’s not just students who’re being recruited, but U-of-I faculty, staff and anyone else who can volunteer some time to help the residents of nearby Cedar Rapids recover from last June’s record flooding.
She says houses are in all stages of being restored and all sorts of assistance is needed. "On the website, there’s a registration form and it lists skills ranging from heavy lifting to foundation work and framing and carpentry and so forth," Mathew-Wilson says. "We’ll be having people fill out this form and listing their special skills and they will be matched to opportunities based on what their skills are." She says strong arms and backs are also needed to help with other chores like clearing debris.
"What we want is for students to carry that sense of giving back to the community with them when they grow into their adult lives and go into their communities that they’ll be living in," Mathew-Wilson says. "We hope they come away from the experience feeling like they’ve made a difference because that’s a pretty good feeling to have."
While volunteers are being welcomed daily in Cedar Rapids from across the country, this project coincides with the U-of-I’s Spring Break, March 14-20. For details, visit the website of the U-of-I’s Civic Engagement Program .