Texas Students Spend their Spring Break Helping a Flood Survivor
Near the Congaree River in central Columbia, a group of college students in matching blue t-shirts spent three days repairing one woman's home. Water from the October's flood left serious damage across her property, ruining much of the home's structure as well as her own possessions. The students are from Tarleton State University in Texas. They traveled 20 hours on a bus to be here for their spring break.
Tarleton Serves is the organization that brought students here. Their goal is to provide volunteer opportunities for the whole campus. The group has been around for four years; it was started in part by Andy Hatcher, now a senior at Tarleton State studying agricultural management. It was freshman year when he and his friends got the idea for Tarleton Serves. He says, "we had heard of alternative spring breaks through other universities. We decided it was something we wanted to do instead of that typical college kid spring break, so we put together a group and started our first year in Biloxi, Mississippi." Since then, the organization has done service work in Boulder, Colorado, Albany, Georgia, and now Columbia, South Carolina.
"I'm a giver, [so] it's hard for me to receive things from people. I feel blessed because they came all the way from Texas to help me."
Lawless says he feels lucky to be a part of this important work: "I've been a teacher for nearly 30 years and to be working specifically with service, learning to set up these projects and to see the transformational learning that these volunteers experience in the course of a week. How they step out of their comfort zones and face something that might be new to them... what they come away with at the end of the week is really pretty amazing."
Students helped reseal the roof, repaint the interior and rails, throw a ton of trash away, and make the house more resilient when another storm hits. Students are amazed at the progress they've seen in so short a time. One student, Catherine, said, "its been worth it to see all the work we've done. You don't realize what you're doing until you see the end product."
The homeowner, Deborah Montgomery, is also very grateful for their work. She says she's didn't receive much help from FEMA or any other organization after the flood. Still, she says, "I'm a giver, [so] it's hard for me to receive things from people. I feel blessed because they came all the way from Texas to help me."
After their last day working on Miss Montgomery's home, Tarleton Serves went to Santee National Wildlife Refuge to help recover the trails there. The flood caused gullies to form, trees to fall, and undergrowth to dominate the trails. The Palmetto Conservation Society led the effort.
The students have just returned home to Stephenville, Texas, after their 20 hour bus ride.