Spring Break trip welcomes back graduates

Courtesy Photo / Sarah Thompson
At His House-favorite Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization last year, Thompson and others found a skeleton among the roots of banana trees

Courtesy Photo / Sarah Thompson At His House-favorite Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization last year, Thompson and others found a skeleton among the roots of banana trees

Susie Skowronek

A caravan of six vans ferrying 72 members of His House Christian Fellowship departed from GVSU at 5 p.m. on March 4. They were bound for Fort Myers, Fla.

Among the group were several graduates of Grand Valley State University returning to make the trip south once again.

“I think people want to keep coming back to the spring break trip because it’s good to be selfless for a week and it’s nice to get away with a group of friends and serve others for a week,” said John Shaw, who graduated in December.

The members of His House spend the week in Fort Myers, Fla., to serve various organizations in the area. The group worked at Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization (ECHO), an agricultural development organization; Special Equestrians, a therapeutic riding facility; Senior Friendship Centers, building wheelchair ramps for members of the community; a food bank; a soup kitchen and Habitat for Humanity.

ECHO has been a favorite,” said Sarah Thompson, who graduated in May. “Last year, I got to chop down banana trees using a machete. That was fun.”

The group also weeds, mulches, and provides other kinds of manual labor for the agricultural development organization. Although the work at ECHO is tough, Thompson said she gets an odd satisfaction from finishing the day covered in dirt.

Many of the graduates’ most memorable moments from Spring Break have come from work at ECHO.

Last year, while pulling out banana trees, Thompson and her team discovered a skeleton mixed into the roots.

“I think it was a raccoon,” she said. “It was a little creepy.”

Despite having graduated from GVSU, former students continue to make the journey south on the week-long March trip to stay connected with the His House family.

“I miss the people,” Thompson said. “It’s a week where there is a lot of us together in close proximity getting to know each other, working together and strengthening each other.”

The sense of community draws graduate Veronica Kolk to His House, and she now works as an intern for the Christian Fellowship organization.

“For me personally, I am part of a family,” she said. “I think you just find a community in His House and the people there, and they are kind of like your family in the area. A big aspect of spring break is building relationships with people.”

To meet new friends, the members of His House look forward to the 28-hour van ride.

“You really build connections in the vans that really has a ripple effect into the week,” Kolk said.

Thompson said she has grown closer to people in her van who she did not know before the spring break trip.

We’re stuck together in a van – 28 hours with 12 of us,” she said. “It creates a lot of interesting situations where you learn a lot about other people and yourself, really. It becomes an instant support group – an instant family in a way.”

Despite spending spring breaks during their college years in Fort Myers on service trips, the graduates say the trip does not get boring.

“I would like to go somewhere new, but it’s a different trip every year because you are with different people and learning different things about the Bible,” Shaw said. “It’s also nice because its tradition.”

Kolk added location does not matter in the end.

“It’s not really about the place as much as it is about the people and the work,” she said. “It’s not where you go that makes the trip, it’s who you’re with.”

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