Alternative Spring Break
Lizzie Walton '18 - April 3, 2017
We have finally arrived! The entire group packed up the big family van to begin our adventure to Chesapeake Bay, Maryland! The ride took about 3 hours for us to land at the Hazel Outdoor Discovery Center. The surrounding acreage is beautiful! Hopefully our group will get some nice weather tomorrow to have exploration time – there are plenty of hiking trails worthy of our pursuits. As of today, we are fully unpacked and settled in. Our first team meal on the outdoor grill was a success, and we finished off the night with an exciting game of Quelf. Let’s see what the next day brings….
Our first day in Maryland is a free day. While some of us decided to rest up in preparation for a week of service, Kerry, Dillan, and I went for a nice, long hike. It is a little chilly today, but the sun is shining. Our morning began at a Methodist service in Salisbury, one of the communities we will be working with during our stay in Maryland. The congregation was so welcoming; they even gave us a box of donuts!
Today was our first immersion/service day! We toured the coastal town of Crisfield. Tim, a native of the area, and Gordon, a local volunteer, showed us around a variety of stops. The first location was MeTompkin, a family run crab/oyster shucking and distribution plant, one of the only companies that still runs mostly by manual labor. During our tour, we learned about the once successful seafood industry that was based in Crisfield. However, the town has seen a massive decline in production as of recent years. This stop was followed by a visit to the Ward Brothers House, the location where the famous sibling duo constructed, arguably, the most well known decoy ducks. Some of their creations still sell at auction for tens of thousands of dollars. The tour ended with a stop at the Smith Island Baking Company, home to the famous Smith Island cake – the state cake of Maryland! After sampling some goodies, our day in Crisfield ended with lunch at a local diner and shopping on the main street. This afternoon was our first day at the Kid’s Café, an after school program for youth in a very impoverished area of Salisbury. We fed the children dinner and helped them finish up their homework before having free reading time. Everyone really loved working with the Kid’s Café.
Our day began bright and early at HALO Ministries, a community outreach program with a variety of facilities, including temporary shelter, a soup kitchen, thrift store, day shelter, etc. After being given a tour of the site and learning about the history of HALO, we spent most of the morning and afternoon painting some of the new offices; the 10 year old organization is rapidly expanding and constantly in need of new room to grow. Around lunchtime, our team was able to serve a restaurant style meal to some of the HALO clients, which everyone really seemed to enjoy. The last bit of the afternoon/evening was spent again at the Kid’s Café where the whole group tried to spend time with different children than the previous day. We capped off the night with s’mores and a bonfire…but eventually got rained on!
Our morning began again at HALO, but this time we attempted to conquer Mt. Everest…that is, the pile of clothes waiting to be sorted for sale at the Thrift Store. HALO relies on income from the Thrift Store, as well as volunteer assistance and donations, in order to run the other programs that they offer. After about 4 hours, it seemed as thought we hadn’t even made a dent. We followed this job with a visit to the store itself, and all of us made some great purchases! Again, we headed to the Kid’s Café, and, at this point, we have all made strong connections with each of the children. It will be very difficult to leave them at the end of the week.
Today was my favorite thus far. Due to the late start of the day, the entire team was able to start the morning with a short hike together. The weather was perfect for a day at a build site with Chesapeake Housing Mission. We headed over to Princess Anne to meet the family for whom we would be constructing a wheelchair ramp: a man, who has cerebral palsy, and his mother. After this point, our group split into two – half of us hauled wood from a warehouse to be used to make the new ramp, while the other half deconstructed the old, dilapidated structure. We worked side by side with a small group from University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and it was wonderful to make some new friends with other college students. We finished a large portion of the ramp, which made our job even easier for when we would come back on Saturday to complete the project. This was our last day at the Kid’s Café. All of us had a very difficult time saying goodbye to the little kiddos that we were able to bond with during our week. As a surprise, we had all of the children do a St. Patrick’s Day craft, which was exciting for them.
Today was a bit of a wild ride…due to the inclement weather forecast, we were unable to make the journey to Smith Island on the ferry. The entire team was very disappointed, but we made the most of the rainy day. Kerry, Deaynna, Jules, and I took a trip back out to Crisfield to buy some goodies from the Smith Island Baking Company. We very nearly cleaned them out of supplies! The afternoon was spent eating cake, napping, crafting, and hiking (in between rain showers). The night was completed with a trip to the bowling alley and a team dinner at Evolution Brewing Company, a local restaurant with an emphasis on farm-to-table dining. Lastly, we all devoured a coconut flavored Smith Island cake!
Unlike the other beautiful, warm days this week, today was absolutely frigid. We returned to Princess Anne to finish constructing the ramp that was started on Thursday. With the help of more UMES students, we finished the structure way before schedule. I was lucky enough to lead the prayer with the family and service groups, and Darby presented a Bible signed by everyone to the mother and son. I still cannot believe that our service trip is very nearly over. We spent the rest of the night packing up some of our supplies at Hazel, presenting affirmation gifts to one another, and playing a game together.
We all woke up early this morning to finish packing the van and head home. Thank you to Darby, Deaynna, Dillan, Jules, Kerry, and Jay for an incredible week of service! Thank you to the community we had the pleasure of working with during our time in Maryland!