Bryan College student Kristyn Proctor said it's been her habit to go home and chill out during spring break. This year, however, she joined a spring break service team.
"I'm a senior, and this was my last year to do it. I wanted to see what it was about and if I could make an impact," said the 21-year-old.
Proctor is among the growing number of college students opting to forgo the beach for inner-city locales across North, Central or South America as they spend their spring breaks in service-oriented projects.
Earlier this month, four men from Lee University gave 44 hours of their spring break helping clear tornado debris. Armed with chainsaws, they walked from home to home offering their assistance in Cleveland, Tenn.
According to the nonprofit Independent Sector, the estimated value of one hour of volunteer time is $21.36. The 176 hours donated by just those four men was the equivalent of $3,759.36 in service to their neighbors.
Now consider that five area colleges sent out 18 service teams totaling more than 150 volunteers, some spending five or more days on their jobs. Their economic impact is in excess of $100,000.
Jack Parks, director of youth services at Partnership for Families, Children and Adults, said a crew from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga made improvements at a group home that the nonprofit's budget didn't include. But he considered the collegians' personal interaction with the teens invaluable.
"I pulled up and it looked like 'Extreme Makeover,' " said Parks, a former Mocs football player. "They were all organized; people were upstairs and downstairs."
"But I really enjoyed the mentoring the young men got from those students. Those relationships will last forever," Parks said.
And Bryan College's Proctor discovered the impact of a service team's ministry.
Proctor's team traveled to inner-city Detroit, where they taught English as a second language to women from Yemen.
"I am a Messianic Jew, and I was in the midst of Muslim women," said Proctor. "I was really nervous about it, a little hesitant because of the awkwardness of the situation.
"But there was a little 4-year-old who was bilingual. Even when the adults didn't know how to treat me, she would crawl onto my lap and teach me Arabic. After the 4-year-old and I made friends, that warmed the hearts of the older women. Being friends, no matter what our religion, was really great," said the student.
Four teams: Covenant faculty led student teams to Clarkston, Ga.; Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Yakama Indian Reservation in eastern Washington state and to London.
Service: According to Brian Beise, in Covenant's Office of College Communications, the team in Clarkston, a suburb of Atlanta, worked with World Relief and Mission to the World to help refugees' resettlement. The team to Haiti did construction to rebuild homes lost in the 2010 earthquake.
The team in London partnered with a group that focuses on "evangelism and church planting" in a South Asian community, as well as visited door-to-door to help local churches connect with their neighborhods.
At the Yakama reservation, Covenant students volunteered for Sacred Road Ministries, which ministers to the physical and emotional needs of the Yakama people.
Seven teams: Bryan's annual Break For Change sent out six traveling teams, while one team volunteered at Rhea County High School.
Nashville: Partnered with Community Servants, an organization that works with immigrants.
Detroit: Joined The Navigators in an outreach to Muslim immigrants.
Opelousas, La.: Worked with Hope for Opelousas, a community development and educational assistance program.
San Diego: Assisted City of Refuge ministry to people in urban neighborhoods.
Boston: Worked with Boston Project for urban and community renewal.
Nicaragua: Volunteered with Nehemiah Project to further its economic and spiritual-renewal outreach.
Service: Nathan Johnson of Dayton, Tenn., traveled to Nashville where his team renovated houses for Burmese refugees.
"We painted, tore out cabinets, put in flooring, fixed walls, replaced light fixtures -- whatever they needed us to do," said the 19-year-old.
In the afternoons, he said, the team walked to the neighborhood's after-school program to play with the kids who ranged from 3 to 12 years in age.
"The time was definitely productive both for the people we worked with and for myself. I know that I grew as a servant of God, and God used our team to encourage the Christians permanently working with the people of that area," he said.
Two teams: Dr. Johnny Evans and three students offered assistance to families affected by the March tornado. Dr. Murl Dirksen led a group of students to Leap of Faith Farm in Delano, Tenn., a therapeutic riding program.
Service: "We worked on clearing Harrison Pike immediately following the storm, clearing trees off the road," said Evans. "We also worked off Georgetown Road in Cleveland. As soon as we would finish clearing trees at one house, we would see another who needed help."
Among tornado victims they assisted: a 92-year-old recovering from a broken hip and a single women with no homeowner's insurance.
Dirksen said his group cleaned tack, put up fencing and poured a concrete slab in the riding barn.
Four teams: Lucas Patterson, editorial manager for the university, said more than 30 students participated along with several faculty and staff. Two teams traveled to Haiti, one to Nicaragua and one to Uruguay.
Service: Patterson said one team in Haiti helped build an orphanage, while the other trained for disaster relief, gave wellness checks and distributed basic medicines to children.
The group traveling to Nicaragua helped missionaries with vehicle maintenance. Business students from the university returned to Uruguay in support of a bakery that an SAU spring break team built in 2010. Earnings raised in bakery sales help fund a local school.
One team: Two dozen students and five faculty members volunteered at the Gardner House, a group home for teen boys operated by Partnership for Families, Children and Adults.
Service: The group painted a porch area, half a dozen rooms and staircase. They did grounds maintenance, bagged and hauled debris from the yard and painted patio furniture. They shampooed the carpet and deep-cleaned the kitchen.
Additionally, they brought supplies for the home, including new bedspreads for all beds, several new dressers, new kitchen table and reupholstered all kitchen table chairs.
"It was a blessing. We didn't have money in the budget for these things," said Parks. "If we had to get all this stuff done, it would have added up to about $25,000."