Barnwell County may not be the spring-break hot-spot destination for most college students, but 14 Boston College students spent last week volunteering in the area.
The students, sponsored by the Blackville Community Development Corporation, helped residents with yard work and cleaned up Blackville's two cemeteries. They also volunteered at organizations, including stocking the Axis 1 Center of Barnwell's food bank and cleaning the fitness center run by Generations Unlimited.
"It's so great to get out of the bubble of college," said Dan Latu, the student leader in charge of the group.
Latu and the rest of his group were among more than 500 Boston College students who spent their spring break across the Appalachian region. As part of the college's Appalachia Volunteers Program, the trip culminates a year-long focus on service, particularly helping poverty stricken folks living in underserved areas.
With many of her friends headed to the beach, Morgan Mcgoey said she wanted to do something different and serve others. "I've always been into service," she said.
John Fee said service fills a void in his life. While he was required to take part in service opportunities at his Catholic high school, he quit when he got to college. "I was missing something in my life," he said, which is why he joined the Appalachia Volunteers Program.
While the students spent their week helping others, they say the people they met and experiences they encountered also helped them. For many of them, this was their first trip to the south.
"Everyone's been so welcoming and warm," said Katelynn Catalano.
In their off time, the group experienced what it's like to live in Blackville. They worshipped Wednesday night at Blackville First Baptist Church, ate with residents at homes and restaurants like Miller's Bread Basket, and ended their time here with a trip to Healing Springs.
Andrea Cardenas said she felt "very enriched" by the experience and seeing how others live.
Latu said he got a glimpse into "how much this community means to so many people."
"We are grateful to have them here," said Evelyn Coker, the director of the Blackville CDC, the group's sponsor for the second year in a row. "They all have been very cooperative and willing to work."
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