As the volunteer group from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College began checking out at Budroe’s Bustop Family Restaurant in Henryville on March 14, a local high school teacher who stopped in for lunch sincerely thanked the group for volunteering their time to help clean up the aftermath of the storms that happened a year ago.
While at Budroe’s that day, the crew got a glimpse of the aftermath from photos on the walls of the family restaurant. These documented the damage Budroe’s sustained during the March 2, 2012, F-4 tornado that devastated Henryville and other towns. The restaurant is now completely restored.
Students and staff from SMWC traveled 2.5 hours south to Henryville March 12 and March 14 during the College’s spring break. The two trips were to volunteer for the organization March 2 Recovery, which helps residents in Clark, Jefferson, and Washington counties who have unmet needs in recovering from the storms of 2012.
During the March 12 trip, SMWC volunteers began insulating the crawl space of a woman’s new home. After several hours of insulating, the group stopped for the night and headed back to SMWC. The second group of students and staff finished the job on March 14. That day they also traveled down the road to help a family move heavy belongings out of their trailer that had been impacted by the storms.
Jeff Malloy, dean of students at SMWC, and Elizabeth Coley, assistant director of campus life, organized the trip for the SMWC volunteers. They also took groups to Henryville during spring break in 2012. Both Malloy and Coley said in email interviews that they recognized a drastic change in the progress made from last year to this year.
Malloy and Coley said that individual’s emotions were pretty raw during the 2012 trip and the people were still having a hard time coming to terms with their losses.
“Every resident we met were in shock and searching to find their ‘new normal’,” Coley said about the 2012 experience. “Not only were they looking for the new normal, but trying to piece back together their lives.”
In 2012, the SMWC volunteers helped build a new home and move a family out of their damaged one. They took the time to help families look for their personal belongings that were scattered around the neighborhood.
This year the work was different, because of so much progress made in the community.
“There was more of finishing touch-up that needed finished,” Coley said.
By volunteering any amount of hours to a service project, SMWC students are following their mission statement, which reads: “By participating in this community, students develop their abilities to think critically, to communicate responsibly, to engage in lifelong learning and leadership, and to effect positive change in a global society.”
Coley expressed that her ultimate goal is for students to spend time living out the mission statement of the school.
Malloy said he appreciates the way projects like these challenge gender roles and that he enjoys watching a person’s initial reaction to a group of women at a construction site. SMWC’s campus program is all-women.
“Every time they under estimate the physical and mental attributes our students bring to a project and by the end of the day we are stewards in changing their traditional beliefs on what women can accomplish,” he said.
Malloy said he hopes that students who have helped in some way walk away grateful for what they have and will continue to serve others.
The next service project is through SMWC’s Sustainability Club annual event Operation: Wabashiki on April 7 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.