The holidays are a time for people to give thanks and give back. Buffalo State students will embody this as they volunteer throughout the Buffalo community January 21–25 for the first annual Alternative Winter Break.
Over the past three years, students have volunteered with the Volunteer and Service Learning Center’s Alternative Spring Break program. “The students learn more about the issues residents are facing in their communities, and appreciate the community they immerse themselves in,” said Laura Hill Rao, VSLC coordinator. “There has been strong student leadership this year at the center with students wanting to be more involved, so we developed Alternative Winter Break.”
Throughout the program, students will rehabilitate and renovate homes with West Side Ministries; assist children and young adults, and paint and clean structures at Vive la Casa; and collect goods at a food drive sponsored by the Service Collaborative and Food Bank of Western New York. The students will also provide service at the First United Methodist Church, where they will live during the break.
“The students make close friendships with each other in this program, and the community members look forward to working with us and involving our students,” Rao said. “It’s a great experience for everyone.”
“We have the chance to focus on developing our relationships with one another and with the community we are rebuilding,” said James Hall, a student leader for Alternative Winter Break. Hall became a student leader after participating in Alternative Spring Break 2012, where he traveled to Baltimore, Maryland. There, the group worked with children, served food at a soup kitchen, worked to renovate homes, and helped someone clear excessive clutter from his home.
“We were able to embed a positive structure in this man’s life and in his community,” Hall said. “With experiences like these, you realize you can change people’s lives.”