RCAP in the news: Southeast RCAP organizes volunteer trip for Boston College students

March 11, 2011 | General RCAP News

From the Roanoke Times (original posting of this article, which includes pictures)

Trading beaches for brushes: Boston College students volunteer in Roanoke to assist churches and people with disabilities

The students’ trip was organized through Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project, a nonprofit based in Roanoke

By Amanda Codispoti

Boston College senior Matt Richardson could be at the beach this spring break, escaping 30-degree temperatures and the stress of school.

Instead, the 22-year-old economics major and 52 other students from the New England school chose to travel to Roanoke, where they are helping children with homework and helping churches and people with disabilities with yardwork, cleaning and painting.

"The last few years I did the beach thing," Richardson said. "I decided to change it up and do something productive."

The students’ trip was organized through Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project, a nonprofit based in Roanoke that helps rural areas obtain water and wastewater treatment plants.

Each spring, the organization identifies people in need of help. Students from 17 universities volunteer to travel to seven states.

Geneva Lawton, 68, welcomed five of the students into her Roanoke home Wednesday.

While she washed dishes and tended to her husband, who is paralyzed, the students rolled a fresh coat of white paint onto the bedroom walls.

"I appreciate it," Lawton said. "I really do, because they didn’t have to."

Lawton said brown spots had creeped onto the walls, and she’s too busy working and caring for her husband to paint herself.

"This is a blessing," she said of the help.

She supplied the students with a cooler of ice-cold soda and water, a kindness the students said they have experienced over and over since they arrived Sunday.

"It’s Southern hospitality," said Molly McMullan, a Boston College sophomore.

The students are staying at churches, in Sunday school classrooms and on air mattresses in church basements. The food that church members have cooked for them has been amazing, the students said.

"Everyone has been so welcoming," McMullan said. "They want to talk to all of us and know where we’re from."

While raking leaves outside a home earlier this week, several passing residents thanked the students for their work.

"They’ve given back to us as much as we’ve given to them," said Colleen Bode, a Boston College sophomore.

The volunteers were also were a hit with middle school students who attend Cultural Arts For Excellence, a Northwest Roanoke after-school program also known as CAFE.

"The kids really love them," said CAFE project director Lenai Clegg. "It’s been really fun for them to do homework this week."

Allie Broas, a Boston College sophomore and Maryland native, has traveled as far as Costa Rica to do community service projects. She said the Roanoke trip has made her realize that she doesn’t have to journey to an impoverished country to help people.

"There is so much we can do to help, so close to home," Broas said.