Alternative spring break

Bev Pfluger ’06, ’09 MEd, Bonner Leaders Program director, wrote this piece about LC’s newest extended family.

Since the fall of 2010, LC students have created a special relationship with the community of Barren Springs, located in Wythe County, Virginia. The people of Barren Springs are now family.

Most recently, seven students just returned from our first spring break extravaganza. Carmen Johnson’11 and I co-led the trip. We joined Boston College students who have worked in Barren Springs since 2005. All the students broke stereotypes, demolished houses, and painted properties. Bilingual LC students worked with the ESL (English as Second Language) students within the community.

Our inaugural visit started as an alternative service break when students spent four inspiring days helping the Neighbor 2 Neighbor program, a community-based effort developed by the folks in Barren Springs.

Ten students participated in what they thought would be a one-time service adventure: They made apple butter with church ladies who shared much advice. They chopped wood and learned how neighbors support one another in time of need and how we take electricity for granted. Students packed bags for the Blessings in a Backpack program so that students on free and reduced lunches can have something to eat on the weekends with their families.

Students learned the meaning of hard work and determination. They overcame challenges such as fear of heights repairing roofs to the humbling ones of burying some of the Barren Springs community.

Technology was out; sharing stories by the campfire was in. Upon the week’s end, students wanted to return this welcoming community. LC Bonner Leaders returned one weekend to serve. This inspired three Bonner Leaders to return for a few months in the summer of 2011. Ten participants returned during 2011 fall break with Chris Gibbons, director of Office of Community Involvement.

Already we have students signed up to return in fall 2012. The magic of Barren Springs is clear: live simply, welcome others, and do something worthwhile. In a society where we go 24-7, we sometimes miss the joys of getting to know how we might support our neighbors with a conversation instead of a text message. We are so blessed to have neighbors in our own backyard who have the insight to continually remind us what our priorities should be.

Here’s what LC students say about their experience.

Spring 2012

“I’ve never lived in country or even a small city like Lynchburg, except when I volunteered (in my native) China. I’ve been used to the urban style of life and thought that no one had time to really build the relationship with everyone. However, this trip taught me that I was totally wrong to ignore exchanging our love. I realize that we really should find our passion, keep trying new things regardless of costs because we have nothing to lose, and give to the society as much as we can now… I will ABSOLUTELY go to Barren Springs again, absolutely!” — April Song ’14.

“I worked on demolishing a house of a Vietnam veteran who had been affected by the harmful chemicals in Agent Orange. Because of the limited number of guys, most or all of us were on the site each day. We all became good friends and are hoping to see each other again next year. This trip taught me about community and how important it is.”
– Matt Dwyer ’14

Summer 2011

I learned that working as a service to those without the proper means to help themselves is something that is not divided into days, but rather into tasks; though the physical labor of work must come to an end every night, I found that dinner conversations often revolved around the next step of a given project.” — Rob Arold ’13

Fall 2010

“I learned that it’s not about what you have or what you are born into. It’s about … the people you reach out to, the helping hand you offer, the lives you impact…”
– Destiny Reyes ’13

“There is no doubt that Barren Springs and the whole region of Appalachia are in a tough uphill struggle … but if communities such as Barren Springs continue to come together as one and enable themselves to look toward a brighter future, real change can, and already is, occurring.” 
– Leah Bigl