Students from Auburn University have once again traveled back to Franklin County while on spring break to assist local families in need with everything from home repairs to yard work to a good dose of kindness. It’s a road not often travelled and a journey seldom taken by many, especially for young college students out of class on break.
Nevertheless, each spring the College Ministry with First Baptist Opelika engage over 280 Auburn University students and another 40 church members who travel to the coast to assist community members who need a roof replaced, a coat of paint or just a simple display of God’s love.
The group has been helping the needy in Gulf County for several years and for the last three consecutive years, about half of the crews have made the trek over to Franklin County to complete multiple projects in Apalachicola.
Franklin’s Promise Coalition, Inc., organizes local projects for the group and help with locating tools and materials. The project list ranges from installing new roofs to interior repairs, often including painting, handicap ramps and home safety improvements. There are teams of students who clean yards, visit with homebound elderly and pressure wash seniors' houses, public buildings and even the municipal fishing piers.
“These young people and the church leadership are so kind, caring, and professional. It is truly a special gift they bring to our community," said Joe Taylor, Executive Director of Franklin's Promise Coalition.
"I received a phone call from one of our senior citizens who was so pleased with the work, she said.” "I feel like I am living again”.
“We have gotten some great support from the City of Apalachicola and from the Franklin County Solid Waste Department. It is something wonderful to see everyone working together", Taylor said.
The students come from all departments at the University. Many share their skills in planning the weeks work including providing a "block party" for all to enjoy.
An good example of the process can be found in Dan Goodwin and Gary Durbin, both are leaders on the construction crew, and both are majoring in the College of Building Science at Auburn; they bring their knowledge of construction and home repair to the four days of intense work. They traveled to Apalachicola two weeks prior to plan the projects and estimate the supplies they would need. Most often community members, family members and the homeowners themselves contribute to buy materials for the projects, but those without resources are included just the same.
"The students and the church raise their own funds to come to the Forgotten Coast. They rent houses on Cape San Blas, buy food locally and spend a small fortune on tools and supplies," said Taylor. "Because of their efforts many of the communities most vulnerable citizens live in cleaner, healthier environments."
Trace Hamiter, College Minister at First Baptist Opelika leads this group of motivated students. Notes of thanks for their work can be sent to him at 301 S. 8th Street Opelika, AL 36801.