Helping others par for the course - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Helping others par for the course

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Posted: Tuesday, April 3, 2007 6:18 am | Updated: 7:55 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Alex Delgadillo and Jessica Feldman are out to prove the 18- to 24-year-old crowd are out to do some good.

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“It’s a lot better to do something productive than waste your spring break doing nothing,” said Delgadillo, 21, an Arizona State University junior studying history with a minor in Spanish. “The work was worthwhile, and we actually saw the work impacted someone directly.”

The two Tempe residents went on an “alternative” spring break with 14 local youth March 10-17. They spent the week painting, removing debris and foliage, and rebuilding areas in Lake Charles, La., which still suffers from the devastating effects of Hurricane Rita, which hit three weeks after Hurricane Katrina.

“They (residents) talk about Rita Amnesia,” said Feldman, 23, a volunteer strategies coordinator with Valley of the Sun United Way. “Hurricane Rita was actually the third worst natural disaster to hit the country, but not a lot of people know about that.”

Feldman was a team leader who spent three weeks helping out from March 1 to 17. The four-week program brought out youth from throughout the country. The Arizona group was the largest represented from one area, Delgadillo said.

Ten were ASU students, and most of the group was from the East Valley.

Feldman spent most of her time rebuilding a house for a mentally challenged 54-year-old man. She was able to see the project to completion, seeing the transformation of the battered home to a nicely painted new-looking home. They did everything from the painting and drywall to rebuilding the bathroom and cleaning out the mess.

The trip bolstered the idea that non-profit work was what Feldman would like to do with her life. She is currently on a 10-month contract with Public Allies Arizona, which places dedicated, service-minded young people in apprenticeships with nonprofit organizations.

“It was exciting to be in a room with kids my age who were interested in the same thing,” she said. “Our generation gets a bad rap. Programs like this show people otherwise. It’s all about youth engagement.”

“It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun,” said Delgadillo, who added the experience also helped change his stereotypes.

“The people in Louisiana were some of the nicest people I’ve ever met,” he said. “They were really hospitable.”

It was the third year Delgadillo has spent his spring break volunteering. This spring break he rebuilt a Lake Charles summer camp.

Last year the camp could only take half of its regular students because of the conditions of the camp.

Delgadillo wants to coordinate students and local residents to take volunteer trips that are service based.

He started the Alternative Spring Break Club this year and those interested in joining can visit asu.edu/altspringbreak.

MTV also filmed the volunteering projects. View footage on thinkmtv.com.

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