SBA Trips Begin Their Return to the Hilltop

It's hard to believe that the SBA week is coming to a close! Time certainly has flown by but the impact of this short week on our students will leave its imprint for years to come. We extend our gratitude and appreciation to the many agencies and their staffs that have opened their doors to us this past week. Thank you for your tremendous hospitality. And thank you for the work you do each day in loving service of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are so often forgotten. Your example and continued efforts to recognize the dignity of each person you encounter is awe-inspiring.

So our groups begin their departures a little more tired than when they left the hilltop, but with an awareness and a new perspective that we trust will inform, form, and transform them as they unpack from this short week's worth of encounters.

Today, Friday, March 7th:

  • Appalachia and Education will both wrap-up their work and then depart this afternoon. They will arrive at the hotel in Cumberland, Maryland later this evening. Tomorrow morning  they will rise early in the morning for their long day of driving back to Saint Anselm.
  • Costa Rica worked for a few hours this morning putting the final touches on the house they were working on, then they take the five-hour drive from Los Chiles to San Jose. They will stay in San Jose this evening and depart for the hilltop early tomorrow morning.
  • Colorado and Phoenix will get some work in and some sight seeing too before they head to the airport for their red eye flight back to the east coast. These two trips will be the first to arrive back on the hilltop early tomorrow morning.
  • Mississippi headed to Memphis where they will go to a museum dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  This evening they stay with Christian Brothers so they can make their early flight tomorrow morning. We expect them back at Saint Anselm in the early afternoon.
  • Maryland and Philadelphia will continue their work at their sites today and tomorrow. Maryland will get an early start to their drive back to campus, while Philly will serve one last meal at noon before making their journey home.

Please keep our students in your prayers for their journey home. We also ask you to keep the agencies and those they serve in your prayers. These dedicated staffs will continue to do important work to meet the needs of the most vulnerable of our society.

Stay tuned to the blog as we update trip arrivals back to campus!

Colorado: We Are "Mountain Strong!"

As the Colorado group wraps up our week of Service & Solidarity with a few new scratches, a couple of sore backs and a lifetime of memories, we take time to reflect on a phrase that has new meaning: "Mountain Strong!" Since Tuesday, we have been fortunate to visit the community of Glen Haven, located "off the beaten path" on the way to Rocky Mountain National Park, but now at the center of our hearts.

SBA Colorado in front of the Rocky MountainsDriving to Glen Haven brings to life the all-encompassing scope of the floods that tore through this region last September. Passing through deep canyons surrounded by rock, the flood's wrath tore apart roads and homes – and lives in the process. Piles of debris sit at the roadside, awaiting convoys of removal crews. Homes on the far side of the river hang precariously over the bank in some spots, inaccessible since the torrent of water scoured hundreds of feet of soil and rock away.

We were all struck by the almost indescribable beauty of the area juxtaposed with the overwhelming loss of homes, farmland and natural habitat.

Yet we were overwhelmed by the courage, compassion and fortitude of those that we met.

Via temporary dirt roads winding through canyons and passing over washed out bridges, we found our way to the Glen Haven firehouse on Tuesday morning for the first time. The main street held only remnants of what was a thriving small community: a heavily damaged general store remained one of the few buildings still standing. Before the flood there were some twelve buildings lining the road. Now, just two remain.

Inside the firehouse we found a coordinated effort to rebuild Glen Haven thanks to many of its own residents and volunteers from surrounding communities. Our sixteen sets of hands were put to quick use, helping to clear an astonishing amount of debris from the homes and yards of Glen Haven residents who has been unable to return home since the floodwater rose.

SBA Colorado partners and participantsThe water swept through this quiet canyon with such force that a tranquil stream – flowing this week with no more than a foot of water – dislodged a house from its foundation next door to our primary work site. Trees hurtled downstream, coming to rest in massive tangled piles that even heavy equipment struggles to remove. In many of the homes, water rose several feet into the basement or first floor, destroying furnaces, living space and a frustrating amount of personal possessions.

The scale of what needs to be done is overwhelming. Yet, we heard more than once from our community organizers that they know Glen Haven will come back stronger.

So, the next time you find yourself in Colorado, take a drive up the Big Thompson Canyon to County Road 43 and make your way to meet some of the most genuine, hard working and caring people that you'll ever find: the residents and friends of the community of Glen Haven.

Colorado: "It's People Like You Who Give Us Hope"

After flying out of Boston and arriving in Denver very early on Sunday morning, the Colorado SBA group spent Sunday (their "free day") exploring the Front Range and ogling out the van windows at a landscape unlike anything many of the volunteers had experienced before.

SBA ColoradoWe began our visit to Colorado with some true Anselmian hospitality courtesy of Ken and Deb Pliska, proprietors of "Runners High" in Golden who had arranged with a number of their vendors to provide each volunteer with a water bottle, hat, t-shirt, socks and PowerBars. The couple have strong ties to many back in New England and were thrilled to welcome the group to their store.

Our day continued with visits to a couple of Colorado's beautiful sites: Horsetooth Reservoir outside of Fort Collins and Red Rocks Amphitheater and Park near Denver. We ended the day with a dinner that served up plenty of local meat: elk, yak and bison burgers included. We even ordered a few helpings of "Rocky Mountain Oysters" for those looking to sample a local delicacy.

Monday brought the group's first work day, and we didn't have to venture far from our home base to find a family that was still in the process of recovering from the horrific floods of last fall.

Saint Anselm College students help repair flood damage to a residence in Colorado while on Spring Break AlternativeMarcie and Kerry greeted us outside their home which sits a few hundred yards from what was today, a gently flowing river. The washed out bridge and debris-covered landscape were subtle reminders of a terrible disaster that is still playing out across the region. Marcie began the day by gathering the group around a fire as she described the flood and its immediate aftermath. The river tore through their property, carrying away some items and depositing others that had been swept away upstream. She described in detail how the water rose to within inches of the main floor of the house, ultimately flooding the basement, but sparing the living quarters of their ranch.

In a particularly poignant moment, Marcie became choked up as she thanked the group for coming to offer their assistance. The couple told stories of neighbors mobilizing with tractors and local schoolchildren helping to clear debris. "It's people like you who give us hope," Marcie said.

The group would gather later and reflect on the strength and courage of the couple, even several moths after the disaster had occurred.

Trips Have Arrived…and the Adventure Begins!

After a long day of travel, the seven SBA trips that left campus this morning (Mississippi, Appalachia, Education, Maryland, and Philadelphia) have reached or are nearing their final destinations, while the trips that left for Boston Logan Airport this afternoon (Colorado and Phoenix) and currently en route on their flights.  We will continually update this post as we hear back from the trips, so please stay tuned to this blog and to our Twitter feed @STA_CampusMin, hashtag #SACSBA.


SBA Appalachia, Education, Maryland, & Philadelphia – a lot of greatness in one place!


Philly hangout

Chillin' in Philly

SBA Philadelphia arrived safely at Saint Francis Inn and were received at the Inn by Kevin, who showed them to their rooms and gave them some basic background information about the Inn and a preview of how their week will go.  One thing he shared that struck the leaders was about the "hidden homeless," low income persons who, while barely affording a place to stay, cannot afford food, utilities, or other necessities, and therefore must make use of the Inn's services.  That gave our students food for thought, hinting at a week's worth of deeper lessons learned when going beneath the surface.   Speaking of food, last we checked the group was sitting down to a dinner of spaghetti and green beans, a nutritious counterbalance to a long car ride of candy consumption.  Tomorrow they are looking forward to a special morning Mass with the staff followed by Sunday brunch.


MD Road Warriors

MD Road Warriors

SBA Maryland, meanwhile, has also arrived at their destination, Benedictine in Ridgely, MD after enduring an arduous journey laden with traffic jams.  Inspired by peanut butter & jelly sandwiches and the musical talents of ukuleleist Ryan Sandford, however, the group reach the school with full bellies and smiles on their faces.  They also enjoyed a chance encounter with the SBA trip groups headed to Philadelphia and Kentucky, making for an unexpected Anselmian reunion on the road!  When the Maryland group arrived at the Benedictine school, they found the campus to be bigger than they expected, and were driven to their living quarters by a couple of the nuns who lived in the convent.  They are excited to finally be there and ready for a full day tomorrow, beginning with Mass and then making a sightseeing visit to Washington DC, where they will be shown about town by Kevin Ward and Ashley Pratte, two Anselmian alums and former Service & Solidarity Missions trip leaders.   Great beginning to a great week!



Rainy walk to dinner

The Ed trip takes the rainy path to dinner!

SBA Education and Appalachia probably takes the honors for longest ride, with an 11 hour trip (with stops) yesterday that should probably earn them some sort of medal!  Thankfully, however, in true teacher fashion the Ed trip made good use of this long block of unstructured time, singing tunes from the Disney Channel and playing games of riddles, while the Appa trip enjoyed many interesting conversations on their van ride.  After staying at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Cumberland, MD last night and enduring another long day of driving the windy Kentucky roads, the Education trip group arrived at The David School (David, KY) around 5:30 pm, while the Appalachia trip arrived at Glenmary Farm (Vanceburg, KY) around 6 pm.  Both trip groups have both settled in at their respective host sites and are enjoying  homecooked dinner tonight – all the cozier and tastier after this long, rainy day!


Mississippi family photo

Mississippi either forgot the camera was rolling, or has a thing for awkward family photos!

SBA Mississippi enjoyed the rare pleasure of a delay/problem free flight, arriving in Memphis early this afternoon and met at the airport by Fr. Tim Murphy, their host at Camp Glenmary who has worked with more than a dozen trip groups from the Hilltop.  Upon arriving at the camp deep in the beautiful Mississippian woods, they took a tour, chopped some wood, and met with a longtime camp counselor who volunteers during the summer.  She told the group about the two camps they run in June: (1) a "Catholic camp" for local area Catholic kids and (2) a camp for economically-challenged children that gets them away from their situations and into the great outdoors, where they can swim, do crafts, and, as one of our trip leaders said, "do what kids should do."  Finally, the group enjoyed sumptuous Southern cooking at its finest, with a dinner of catfish, jalapeno fritters, and blackeyed peas, and ended the evening by walking it off with a trip to the woods to see the stars.



PHX in the airport!

Phoenix has arrived!

SBA Phoenix, along with its travel partner, SBA Colorado, may have overtaken the Appalachia and Education trips in terms of travel time.  Both flying trips left campus for Boston Logan Airport at 2pm yesterday, and after a long layover and longer flights, finally arrived at their housing sites in the wee hours of this morning (keeping in mind the 2 hour time difference).  Phoenix experienced true Benedictine hospitality at Our Lady of Guadalupe Monastery when the nuns there were up to welcome the group – even at 2 in the morning!  This morning the Phoenix group will be attending Mass and spending time with the Benedictine sisters before heading to the Andre House of Hospitality early in the afternoon.  At Andre House, where they will be serving all week, they will receive an orientation and then a homecooked meal from the yearlong volunteers staying there.  They are tired but excited for a full week of service!



Runners High Visit

Colorado trip says hi to Runners High

Similar to the Phoenix trip, the well-traveled SBA Colorado crew arrived early this morning at their destination, the Berthoud First United Methodist Church, where they will be staying during their week of flood relief work in the area, coordinated by Community Collaborations International.  Although they got what sleep they could on air mattresses on the church hall floor, it must have felt like the Hilton after their weary travel day!  This morning they enjoyed breakfast prepared by church staff before heading to Runners High to hang out with store owners Ken and Deb, with whom the students were connected by SAC Vice President of College Advancement Jim Flanagan.  After enjoying their hospitality, the Colorado trip group trekked to Red Rocks (by minivan, not by foot), taking in the incomparably vast mountain vistas on a full day of sightseeing.  Tomorrow, however, the real work begins!

Day 2 of SBA Departures Is Off & Running!!!

Day 2 of our SBA departures has begun.  Following is the latest update of trips that have departed from campus and arrived at their destinations: [Read more…]

Spring Break Alternative Prepares For Service!

Each break at Saint Anselm College, the Office of Campus Ministry sends students (and a handful of faculty/staff) to do service in several locations both domestically and internationally. The Service & Solidarity Missions program, now in its 24th year, provides its participants not only with the opportunity to serve others but also with an experience that further develops lessons learned in the classroom.

Service & Solidarity candles and crosses at the send-off MassThroughout their week of service, prayer, and reflection students step beyond their comfort zone and ask themselves meaningful questions about who they want to be in the world.

This year 97 Spring Break participants will journey to places such as David & Vanceburg, Kentucky,  Aberdeen, Mississippi, Los Chiles, Costa Rica, Berthoud, Colorado, Ridgely, Maryland, Phoenix, Arizona and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

We ask for your prayers for these participants, for the work they will be doing, the communities for which they will be serving, and the personal challenges each participant will face.

We ask for your support of these participants.  Many times participants come back from these trips overwhelmed with their experience. Please ask them about their week upon their return.

Please consider joining us for the SBA send off Mass on Thursday, February 27 at 7 p.m. in the Lady Chapel, Lower Church.

On behalf of the Service & Solidarity: SBA leaders and participants 2013-2014, and the entire Campus Ministry staff; I thank you in advance for your prayers and support.

Susan Gabert
Director of Campus Ministry