News

Not your usual spring break

By PHILIP PALERMO

The Mirror

Like many college students, Carly DeVries kicked off her spring break by hopping on a plane and taking a trip.

When she got off that plane, however, she was greeted not by a thriving party scene. Instead, the Washington State University junior said she was struck by the pervasive smell of mold in the air in a hot, humid city in need of help.

DeVries, a former Decatur High School student, spent her week-long break in New Orleans, helping victims of Hurricane Katrina.

“You would have thought this happened last week,” she said of the state of some homes in the Louisiana city.

She was among more than 100 WSU students –– including two other Decatur graduates, Amber Spencer and Megan Geiselman –– who took part in a nationwide effort sponsored by Campus Crusades for Christ. DeVries said she heard about the effort through her sorority Bible study group.

“It was probably the most amazing spring break I’ve ever had,” she said.

Each day, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the students helped gut houses and clean them out so they could either be rebuilt or torn down.

In the evenings, students were free to explore the city and experience the different characteristics that make New Orleans such a popular place.

DeVries said she saw firsthand how the region’s southern hospitality hasn’t faded away. The owners of one home, who had little left after the hurricane, still offered to buy lunch for the students that were gutting their home.

“As much as we were trying to help them, they were the most giving people I’ve ever met,” DeVries said. “They’re so generous.”

According to her mother, Carly knows a thing or two herself about generosity.

“She likes to give her time and do philanthropic things,” Carol DeVries said.

Carol said she was happy with her daughter’s decision to help, rather than head to the typical college spring break locales.

“She chose to do something useful with her time,” Carol said. “I was very proud that she chose to serve others instead of being self-serving during spring break.”

Carly said she hopes to continue helping those in need after college. While she does want a successful career, she also wants to help around the country.

Classes are back in session, and the students who volunteered in New Orleans have gone back to school. But DeVries said the work isn’t over. In fact, she hopes to return to New Orleans this summer, and she encourages more people to help.

“I’d go back in a heartbeat,” she said.

Staff writer Philip Palermo: 925-5565, ppalermo@fedwaymirror.com

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