Volunteers spring into action on alternative break trips

When Students from Hillel at Virginia Tech returned to New Orleans for their annual spring service trip this year during the week of March 6, they expected to experience the city from the lens of a local and give back by rebuilding in the community. What they might not have anticipated however, was to see how quickly they could make a total transformation on Ms. Dornese’s home in the Hollygrove neighborhood.

The visit from Virginia Tech Hillel kick-started a bustling spring break season that never fails to keep RTNO on our toes. Volunteers from across the country flocked to New Orleans this year to spend their spring breaks giving back to our community. Throughout the season, RTNO hosted over 500 volunteers looking to get their hands dirty, serving homeowners citywide. With over 6,200 hours served, saving $146,000 in labor costs, spring break is one of RTNO’s favorite times of the year, next to our annual October Build. The high volunteer volume means we can accomplish astounding amounts of work in a very short time while sharing why New Orleans is so special to us with people from all corners of the United States. It’s hard work, but the fun and excitement certainly isn’t lacking.

“We had an absolute blast!” said Emma Cohen of Hillel at Virginia Tech at the end of their service week. Their group was comprised of several returning students, but mostly newbies to New Orleans, and rebuilding in general. In their four short days of service, they were able to completely scrape and prime the exterior of Ms. Dornese’s Apricot Street home, setting it up perfectly for the weeks of volunteers ahead.

“On behalf of the Marquette students who had the privilege of working with RTNO this past trip, thank you for your continued commitment to the city of New Orleans and for providing us with such meaningful and memorable experiences,” said Catherine Rourke of Marquette Univer­sity in Milwaukee. The group of 14 students followed up with work on Apricot Street, giving it a fresh coat of paint and making vital repairs to the windows and siding.

As March drew to a close, RTNO finished work on five homes, while beginning work on a hand­ful more because of the hard work and great attitudes that the dedicated spring break volunteers brought with them. From painting siding in the warm spring sunshine to setting fence posts and building wheelchair ramps, this year’s volunteers were an irreplaceable asset to bringing New Or­leanians closer to safe, affordable housing.