BU Today

In the World

Alternative Spring Break: Greenville, South Carolina

Helping both young and old


Chris Wilcox (COM’12) spent part of his volunteer week painting. (Below) Kerrie Canavan (SPH’12) working at the Project Host Soup Kitchen. Photos by Chloe Gummer (CAS’14)

More than 300 students volunteered in this year’s BU Community Service Center Alternative Spring Breaks program. Now in its 24th year, ASB pairs students with 36 organizations around the country, rebuilding homes, assisting at animal shelters, and working at food banks, among other projects. We are bringing you first-person accounts of some of those trips, described by both students and coordinators as unforgettable. Readmore.

After a 24-hour drive that included a visit to a Jersey Shore house, a 2 a.m. tour of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and countless Disney sing-a-longs, my ASB group cheered as we finally pulled off the highway in Greenville, S.C. As coordinators, Daryl Bosco (SMG’11) and I had been planning this trip for four months and were in disbelief that we were actually here.

Our group consisted of eight volunteers, two coordinators, and a chaperone. Throughout the week, we worked mostly with two organizations in Greenville: Diligent Hands…Gracious Hearts (DHGH), a nonprofit that primarily assists poor elderly and handicapped residents, and the Frazee Dream Center, which provides free preschool and afterschool programs for children. Our amazing site contact, DHGH director Ellis Beddingfield, also arranged for us to volunteer with the Project Host Soup Kitchen and Harvest Hope Food Bank, also in Greenville. We were all grateful to have such a diverse range of service to better understand the Greenville community.

Diligent Hands…Gracious Hearts performs a variety of community development programs, including mowing lawns and painting and repairing houses for elderly and disabled people living on limited incomes. The nondenominational Christian ministry also runs a soup kitchen and food bank that serves the poor. We spent several mornings helping to paint the home of an elderly gentleman.

Greenville2_vWorking in the Project Host Soup Kitchen was one of the most powerful days of service I experienced during the trip. Founded in 1981, the kitchen serves over 78,000 meals a year. I was fortunate to work with Elizabeth, a fifth grade teacher who volunteers there one day a week and brings some of her students with her. On the day I was there, I helped Elizabeth and two of her students work the door, greeting people as they came in. All of the patrons smiled at us and wished us a great day. Elizabeth caught up with many of the people who walked in and told me their stories as they headed to the kitchen for lunch. It was shocking to learn how quickly many of these people’s lives had changed from a stable situation to one where they needed the services of a soup kitchen. One patron passionately played the piano for the other diners throughout the meal.

We spent a couple of mornings and our afternoons assisting preschoolers and elementary school students at the Frazee Dream Center, a nonprofit founded in 2006 by Matt and Jenny Reeves, who at the time were working at camps with underserved children. The Reeves reflected one night on many of the children’s reluctance as they left camp to return home to difficult family situations. Matt and Jenny believed they were meant to do something more and decided to provide kids in the Greenville area with a safe place to go after school. Forging relationships with members of the community, the Frazee Dream Center today offers a free preschool and afterschool and summer programs for children ages 3 to 16. The center provides help in academics, character development, sportsmanship, and emotional well-being.

Matt and Jenny gave each of us yellow bracelets with the words “Work, Respect, Love, Forgive” printed on them. They explained that the words stood for the center’s motto: “Work hard, respect authority, love all, and forgive quickly.” They believe children who follow this motto will be able to succeed in their dreams.

Greenville1_hDivya Srinivasan (ENG’11) (from left), Amanda Creech (CAS’13), Briana Gomes (COM’14), Daliena St. Germain (SMG’14), Chloe Gummer (CAS’14), Noor Al-Mesad (CGS’12) John McAteer (CAS’11), Megan Farragher (CAS’13), Daryl Bosco (SMG’11), Kerrie Canavan (SPH’12), Chris Wilcox (COM’12), and Frazee Dream Center directors Jenny and Matt Reeves. Also pictured are two boys from the center. Photo by Cory Kraft

I spent two mornings working in a classroom of preschoolers. We played with the kids, helped with circle time, and prepared lunch, as well as taking them on an outing to a nearby park. During the afternoons, I primarily worked with fourth and fifth grade boys, reading together and helping them with their homework. Once homework time was over, we would play games of Knock-Out and Sharks and Minnows with the students.

In our free time, we retreated to the Fuller Youth Center, which was our home base during the trip. The women shared two rooms, and the men slept in another. We cooked in the center’s kitchen and after dinner made friendship bracelets, played games of Spoons and Mafia, and reflected on our experiences during the week. We also explored the historic West End of Greenville. On our last night of service we drove three hours to Blackville, S.C., where Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore and his parents hosted a delicious southern barbecue for us. We even got to watch the BU-Kansas NCAA men’s basketball game together.

Saying good-bye to everyone at the Frazee Dream Center was the most difficult part of our week in Greenville. Having to explain to the preschoolers that our group was headed back to Boston broke my heart. As we piled into the 12-passenger van to leave Frazee for the last time, one of the older students ran up to the van, climbed in the side door, thanked us for visiting, and begged us not to return to Boston. When he jumped out, we all worried about what the future held for the kids at the center.

Because of the inspiring Greenville community, our group will never forget to work hard, respect authority, love all, and forgive quickly.

Christopher Wilcox can be reached at crwilcox@bu.edu.


2 Comments on Alternative Spring Break: Greenville, South Carolina

  • Anonymous on 03.29.2011 at 8:44 am

    I am from a small town just 20 mins west of Greenville, and I am also a grad student at BU. This hits so close to home and I am so glad that people here at BU are reaching out to the needy within different regions. The poverty and rising unemployment in that region back home is unreal, and it brings joy to my heart knowing people here in Boston care and want to give back to that community.

  • Anonymous on 03.29.2011 at 11:34 am

    I am an undergrad from Columbia, South Carolina. It’s cool to hear that BU students are helping out with agencies I used to also help out with in high school such as Harvest Hope Food Bank. The need is huge, and few people know about it. I remember when I used to work with another agency: Homeworks. You see stuff that you never thought existed in America: houses filled with cockroaches, sewage seeping out of the ground, roofs too shaky to even attempt to put tiles on them. The poverty level is akin to things I saw in China or heard about in third-world countries, but never thought to see here. South Carolina has an enormous amount of poverty in many places, and I’m very happy the word is getting out about it.

Post Your Comment

(never shown)