During the last week of break, nine Hamilton students drove to Jacksonville, Fla., to participate in an Alternative Winter Break trip organized by the Community Outreach and Opportunities Program (COOP). Hurricane Irma caused widespread damage in the area, and the Hamilton students joined long-term disaster relief efforts to help the local community recover.

Katie Kreider ’18, Eleni Neyland ’18, Matt Kastilahn ’18, Grace Friedel ’19, Jaden Liu ’21, Krissi Kim ’21, Susanna Yee ’19, Tierney Latham ’21, and Yvonne Chen ’20, joined other relief teams in the Jacksonville area for a week of service. They spent their time gutting moldy drywall and floorboards, removing downed trees, and clearing debris from affected areas.

The work was demanding, but impactful for the participants. For Kastilahn, “The work was meaningful. Not just in the sense that we helped move trees or gut houses, but in the sense that you learn a hard day’s work alongside good people has an impact on everyone including yourself.”

Neyland, one of the trip’s leaders, noted, “Helping people who truly need it most is an unbelievably gratifying experience. We met so many incredible community members whose lives had been upended by the storm - they had trees in their living rooms or mold in their bedrooms - and we were able to help bring normalcy back to their lives. Their gratefulness made the whole trip worth it.”

The Irma Relief trip was the COOP’s second annual Alternative Winter Break trip. The COOP also runs many Alternative Spring Break trips each year and has recently begun offering fall service trips.

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