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Alpha Phi Omega lends a helping hand

Fraternity to spend spring break in New Orleans
Mar 15, 2010
By Lauren Bee

It?s that time of year again: spring break for Ohio University. Across campus, students are packing their bags to trot the globe during March 20-28. While most OHIO students and faculty associate spring break with trips to warmer climates, not everyone?s spring break destination is a beach. Read on to learn about one of many non-traditional spring break trips being planned by Ohio University students.

While many students will be flocking to the warm beaches for spring break, 14 Ohio University students and members of service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega will be getting their hands dirty helping hurricane-affected people in New Orleans.

The students will be working with the Serve Green initiative and staying at a volunteer base camp five miles from the French Quarter called Camp Hope. The camp serves as long-term housing for volunteers in the New Orleans area for $25 a night.

Senior Meghan Meyer, who is organizing the trip, said the group is planning to work with the initiative to build a community park for local residents.

Several members of the travel party have regularly used their college breaks to volunteer in the St. Bernard Parish of New Orleans. In the winter of 2008, Meyer and Gabrielle Swisher, the fraternity's rush chair, helped an elderly couple, Eddie and Arlene Lemoine, move back into their home. Meyer said the couple left a big impression on her.

"Eddie and Arlene made me feel so welcome," Meyer said. "Eddie calls me his granddaughter. They made me feel like I was a part of the family from the first time I met them."

The Lemoines were forced to abandon their home when the flood waters came and lived awhile in a Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer before volunteers from the St. Bernard Project, which included members of Alpha Phi Omega, rebuilt their home. Meyer extended her winter 2008 visit so that she could help finish the Lemoine's house. She later surprised the couple by attending their house dedication party.

Swisher said one of the group's aim was to keep the spring break travel party small and manageable. She said the group knew it would be on a waiting list to work with its first-choice organization, the St. Bernard Project, and had learned that large groups don't work well.

"We decided it would be less stressful of a trip and people would get more out of the experience if it was more intimate," Swisher said.

Meyer, who will be returning to New Orleans for the fourth time, said the first group she went with was small and allowed her to get more involved because of its small size.

"With just the five of us, we got to go wherever we wanted," Meyer said. "We got to go to the open house parties when residents were moving back in for the first time. That not only pushed me to get involved with New Orleans but with Alpha Phi Omega."


Published: Mar 15, 2010 8:00 AM

New Orleans service project

Alpha Phi Omega President Patty Guzowski hugs Eddie Lemoine at his welcome home party during winter break 2009.

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