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Rebuilding Homes and Restoring Communities: Just Another Day’s Work for ASBO

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Students in ASBO have travelled to areas in need throughout the country.
Students in ASBO have travelled to areas in need throughout the country.

What did you do on your Spring Break? Visit family and friends, catch up on homework, or simply unwind and clear out your DVR? Alternative Spring Break Outreach (ASBO) used their week off to altruistically aid those displaced or in need.

ASBO is a student-developed, student-run community service organization whose mission is to promote critical thinking, social action and civic engagement for a lifetime by combining education, reflection and direct service on the local, regional, and national levels. ASBO trains and immerses students in a purposeful service experience designed to connect students and community members while enhancing growth, mutual awareness, and life-long learning.

Alternative Spring Break Outreach was developed in 2005-2006 by students as part of the Stony Brook University Annual Student/Faculty/Staff retreat and through the lens of the 2006 Year of Community’s theme of “Giving.” In realizing the need for Stony Brook to get involved with giving back to the community, a core group of students began to work tirelessly to create an alternative break program to benefit communities in need while building a spirit and tradition of giving within the University.

ASBO trains and immerses students in a purposeful service experience designed to connect students and community members while enhancing growth, mutual awareness, and life-long learning. Students and advisors participate in “immersion” experiences of community service.

“I hope that in time we get to a point as a University that we fully invest in service learning and expand the scope and reach of this program,” said Director of Student Engagement and Activities and ASBO Advisor, Christine Marullo, who has been on every humanitarian trip since 2010, sans one. “I’d like for us to be able to do more local trips throughout the year as well as a January service trip, and see an increase in fundraising efforts and support for the organization to make the trip more accessible for all students.”

ASBO trains students in purposeful service experiences.
ASBO trains students in purposeful service experiences.

Throughout the years ASBO has made numerous trips to areas in need throughout the country, often ravaged by natural disasters and accidents. The group worked with Habitat for Humanity and Collegiate College in New Orleans to aid those devastated by Hurricane Katrina from 2006-2008; helped with the BP Oil spill clean-up in Pensacola, Florida, in 2011; aided with tornado relief in both Missouri and Alabama in 2012; and helped with flood relief in Boulder, Colorado, in 2014 and San Antonio, Texas, in 2017.

Some of the services provided by ASBO include focuses on food insecurity, recognition of a lack of fresh and affordable foods in storm-ravaged and urban communities, planting in community gardens, serving in soup kitchens, and organizing products in food pantries. While in Texas last year they focused heavily on construction; primarily roof work, ranging from adding support, obtaining materials, replacing rotten beams, putting down roofing felt and the actual roofing.

This year 67 students and advisors traveled to Clearwater, Florida, from March 11-17 to work with Habitat for Humanity in helping repair and rebuild homes damaged from the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

“This year there was a major focus on restoration. We worked on a lot of different houses that needed to be renovated aesthetically,” said ASBO President Katy Franzone ’18, a senior in the Respiratory Care program, who has been with the organization since 2015, her freshman year. “We painted houses that weren’t in good shape and also brand new homes. We worked with the Homeless Empowerment Program, which is a really cool organization that works to ensure that their homeless shelter is the last one that their residents ever go to; they get people back on their feet.”

Anthony Vertucci

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