Spring break is generally a time for college students to get away.
And, that’s exactly what Southwestern Community College’s carpentry and building trades program did — except it wasn’t to a typical spring-break destination. They weren’t soaking up rays on a tropical island.
They were in Joplin, Mo.
Dennis Downing and Charlie Mundy, carpentry instructors at SWCC, took 16 students from Creston and Osceola to Joplin over spring break this year to help with the rebuilding efforts.
In May 2011, Joplin sustained the deadliest tornado in the United States since 1947. The EF5 tornado killed 158 people, left approximately 1,000 people injured and destroyed more than 7,000 houses.
“It was a really rewarding experience for our students,” Downing said. “This is a project that we hope will instill a lifelong habit in them to help others, because our goal as a program is to not only make better carpenters, but ultimately make better people.”
Upon arriving in Joplin March 11, SWCC students began work on a single-story, three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,300-square-foot house located in the middle of Joplin. The students completely framed the house and by the end of the trip began helping secure shingles on the roof.
“I felt like the students went from a learning mode to production mode,” Downing said. “I really feel we got a lot accomplished in five days.”
The house SWCC students worked on was in partnership with an organization called Fuller Center for Housing— a non-profit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry dedicated to eliminating poverty housing worldwide.
The students were able to communicate directly with the family they were building the house for. The family included a mother, father and three children.
“The family stopped by a few times,” said Cody Gilbert, first-year SWCC carpentry student and 2010 graduate of Creston High School. “It was nice getting to know who we were doing the work for. They were grateful. It was good to know this house was going to someone who really deserved it.”
Downing said the students were able to use the skills they learned during the school year on the trip. But, it wasn’t just a business trip. Downing said, during the evenings, the students were housed at a local church and really had the chance to get to know one another.
Downing said he’d like to thank all the donors involved in helping fund this year’s trip. He added he’d like to organize another trip next year for the students, but at a different location. Gilbert said he’d do it again next year.
“It was a great experience,” Gilbert said. “I would definitely give up another spring break to do something like this again.”