The GIVE Center and the Milledgeville Life Enrichment Center (LEC) hosted their first annual alternative fall break this semester, with 27 students, parents and adults with disabilities—also called consumers—traveling to the Georgia coast to participate in a Hurricane Irma relief service project.
The trip to St. Simon’s Island and Jekyll Island consisted of game nights, a visit to The Sea Turtle Center, beach trips, service and most importantly, GC students getting to know the consumer they were partnered with over the weekend.
The Milledgeville Life Enrichment Center is a private nonprofit program for adults with intellectual disabilities living in and around the Baldwin County area, according to its mission statement.
The service project was the first time many of the GC students and LEC consumers had met and worked together.
“To see them know and understand that what they are doing is making a difference and makes it worthwhile because yes, everyone is excited for the beach, but the service is what is making the impact,” said junior Carrigan
Flotlin, a GIVE Center Leadership Manager.
The service project took place at a house that had been flooded by Hurricane Irma as it moved across the Georgia coast.
“We did get close to a foot of water inside the house which means we lost all of the furniture that was downstairs, unfortunately,” said homeowner Dianne Mines.
The destruction Irma brought to this family shocked the volunteers, but that did not stop any of them from putting hard work in for the afternoon.
“This happened practically all around the state, so having good people without belongings to call their own just really dampens the mood, and it’s just terrible to think about,” said senior Brett Chandler, LEC Volunteer.
The homeowners said they were extremely thankful for the hours the volunteers put in to help clean up the damage, and the consumers from the LEC said they knew they made a difference in the lives of these homeowners.
For many of these individuals, it was their first time taking a trip like this.
Dee Weimer, an LEC consumer, said that helping others and giving back was one of her favorite parts of the trip. Most of the trip’s cost was funded by a grant with theAWS foundation and the Creative Enrichment Center.
The Creative Enrichment Center is a branch of the Life Enrichment Center that serves those who live in their own community with their own families.
Volunteers are welcome to serve with these consumers after having registered with the GIVE Center.
Barbara Coleman, director of the Life Enrichment Center, said she was thrilled to have college students along for the ride.
“It’s an opportunity for a lot of worlds to come together to me,” Coleman said. “When we have an opportunity to partner up with the college and college students, we have an opportunity to educate students individually, and each person has an opportunity to have an experience...to bond with the individuals.”
Eventually, similar alternative spring and fall break trips could soon be open to any member of the GC community who is registered as a volunteer with the GIVE Center and the Life Enrichment Center.
“In the future, it is something that will be open to the campus as a whole,” said Kendall Stiles, founder and director of the GIVE Center. “This year we kind of hand selected people from the class or individuals we knew [who] had worked with special needs to make sure everything worked out.”
While fostering connection between LEC consumers and GC students while making a positive impact on the lives of Irma victims, the trip laid a foundation for future similar alternative breaks.