College students bring renewal
to spring break
Missouri, Texas groups reach out to Shreveport-Bossier City neighborhoods with acts of caring
For release: March 27, 2009
College student Jennifer Green planted seeds of renewal during a spring break outreach with Community Renewal this month.
"This is more rewarding than anything else I could do on spring break. I like seeing the results. When we finished the garden, that was real rewarding knowing we had done something that will help the community," said Jennifer Green, a University of Missouri junior.
"You hear of groups that come in for a year and then leave. I like how you plant yourself in the community and make a difference. This makes me want to lead my own trip here next year. And I would like to have Community Renewal in my own neighborhood."
More than two dozen college students from the University of Missouri and McMurry University in Abilene, Texas, gave up their spring break to give back to communities in Shreveport and Bossier City.
They weeded and planted in neighborhood gardens and in the yards of deserving homeowners, painted porches, made gift bags for local residents and spent positive time with children in Community Renewal Friendship Houses.
"I wanted to put in flowers and do landscaping, but then I lost my job and could not afford the flowers. For them to take the time to do this just knocks me off my feet," said homeowner Yolanda Braziel, a Shreveport mother of seven who temporarily lost her income when fire shut down the tennis club restaurant where she works.
"I was getting all depressed and this has really lifted me up. It's confirmation for me not to give up. They are happy and smiling and they have really lifted my faith."
Timothy Miler, a junior at McMurry who is studying to be a campus chaplain, said he was inspired by inner-city residents who are working to better their community.
"If people that are forgotten about can express this type of renewal, then the people with resources can change so many more lives. This is absolutely encouraging," he said.
"People want community involvement and connection in their lives, but so few people are reaching out. People need to open their eyes and see the opportunity."
Freshman McMurry nursing major Chelsea Jones said this was a spring break that touched her heart.
"I realized I don't need to go to other countries on a missions trip. There are big needs right here," she said. "We have learned that a few college kids can make a big difference."
The Missouri students planned months for their trip and conducted several fundraisers to cover their expenses. The group that came to Shreveport was one of nine teams that were dispatched by the Office of Community Involvement to serve in cities around the country.
"I've always been provided for very well and I want to repay what's been given to me. I am excited about this model and the idea of building community," said sophomore Kevin Holle, who is active in food drives, blood drives and other volunteer activities at school.
"Most programs you go in and help and leave. I want to have a lasting impact and I think Community Renewal does that."
Community Renewal International is a nonprofit effort to restore safe and healthy communities through caring relationships. Founded in 1994, Community Renewal reaches at-risk youth through Friendship Houses built in impoverished neighborhoods, strengthens education through the Adult Renewal Academy, partners with The Fuller Center for Housing and connects caring partners who turn their neighborhoods into safe havens of friendship and support.