FLORENCE, S.C. – While many college students head to the beaches for spring break, a special group of Boston College students broke that mold this week in Florence.
By night the students spent their week off sleeping on air mattresses at the Florence location for Boys and Girls Clubs of the Pee Dee Area, but by day the group performed community service projects in the area through the Southeast Rural Community Assistance Program Inc.
It’s not a typical choice for young adults, but it’s an easy one for this group, according to student Emily Boches.
“Being from Boston College, it’s like a Catholic school but with a very strong Jesuit influence, which is taking your education and putting it into service, and I think that a lot of us have that mindset and want to do it,” she said.
Through SERCAP, students perform service-learning projects, typically in rural areas, providing anything from interpersonal connections to manual labor. Although the program started in the 1960s as a way to give rural communities upgraded water and wastewater systems, the organization has expanded its mission.
On Thursday, half of the students were busy building shelving units, tables and other needed items for the Florence location. The other half served chicken bog into to-go boxes for a fundraiser the club was having.
Throughout the week, the college students spent time with kids in the afternoons as they came in from school, and during the day many volunteered at places such as Harvest Hope Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity and the Hartsville club.
They even received a Florence area history lesson from historian Joe Stukes.
However, it wasn’t all work.
The group was able to catch a performance of “Dearly Beloved” at Florence Little Theatre, and evening meals ranged from board member-provided spaghetti dinners and an evening at development director Susan Goldstein’s house to Wednesday night supper at Central United Methodist Church.
BC student Meghan Calliher said the opportunity to give back was awesome, but the week really didn’t feel much like work.
“The Southern hospitality down here, it makes it feel like they’re serving us,” she said.
Another BC student, Deirdre Spatola, agreed and said the trip was a great time out from school.
“At BC, we’re always so driven to get good grades and get our work done,” she said. “We do other volunteer work there, as well, but mostly we’re focusing on us and our school work. So to have one week where we can stop and have things stop being about us is actually liberating.”