Service trip aids Iowa communities

Service Trip
Chantal Knepper (left) and Kaitlyn McElroy stand in front of the house they worked on with Habitat for Humanity in Corpus Christi, Texas last year during a Tour Week service trip. — Submitted photo

Students participating in the fall break service trip will be working with Habitat for Humanity in Waterloo and attending Reggie’s Sleep-out in Des Moines.

Student leader Kaitlyn McElroy said participants can look forward to the feeling of giving back to the community and seeing people’s reaction to their trip.

“Most people don’t believe we’d want to spend our break doing service, but it’s a rewarding feeling,” McElroy said.

Students will be gone Nov. 25 to 28. All participants will travel to Waterloo and Des Moines as part of the one fall break service trip offered. Service-Learning Coordinator, Renee Sedlacek, said student leaders are hoping for a total of 12 participants.

Students will work on houses that Habitat for Humanity is building for families in need of homes in Waterloo on Nov. 25 and 26. McElroy is hoping for a large number of applicants so the group can split up and work at two house sites.

“We might do some yard work, painting, or building depending on where the house is at in the building process,” she said.

Students will stay at a Waterloo church until Nov. 27 when they will sleep outside in a cardboard city at Drake University Stadium in Des Moines. Reggie’s Sleep-out is a fundraiser hosted by the Iowa Homeless Youth Center and raises awareness about homelessness and poverty in Iowa, McElroy said.

This is the seventh annual Reggie’s Sleep-out, and the event brings in about 1,500 campers each year.

Sedlacek said past fall break service trips have worked with Habitat for Humanity in Ottumwa and Oskaloosa, but this will be the first time students are working with Iowa Heartland Habitat for Humanity in Waterloo. Last year’s fall break service trip participants also attended Reggie’s Sleep-out.

Shea Kruger, a student that attended the fall break service trip last year, worked with Habitat for Humanity in Ottumwa.

“I learned how easy it can be for a family to go from doing fine on their own to needing the support of low income housing. In one instance a community member that had been volunteering for Habitat for years found himself in need of a home,” Kruger said. “It was rewarding to work with the Habitat members that are so passionate about providing housing for families and meeting with families who have benefited.”

Sedlacek hopes students participating in the trip will realize there are many local needs and they don’t have to travel far to do service.

“Reggie’s Sleep-out is an amazing event and I hope they are able to bring back ideas to Wartburg’s campus that educate the rest of the student body on the issues of affordable housing and homelessness,” Sedlacek said. “In Black Hawk County alone, it’s estimated that 700 to 800 people experience homelessness each night.”

McElroy participated in a service trip last school year during Tour Week. She worked with Habitat for Humanity in Corpus Christi, Texas and also worked at Bokenkamp, a children’s refugee shelter for kids who leave their homes and cross the Mexican border into the U.S.

“It was a huge eye-opening experience,” she said. “It makes you more aware of situations you may never have experienced before.”

Chantal Knepper also attended the Corpus Christi service trip and hopes to go back as a student leader this year to work at Bokenkamp. Knepper said the best part of the trip was making new friends and getting closer with students she had never talked to before.

Sedlacek said service trips are often an opportunity for students to meet new people and grow personally.

“Most students are surprised by the fact that they learn way more about themselves on the trip than what they were able to give to others in terms of their service,” Sedlacek said. “Service trips allow you to help others which in turn helps you help yourself.”

McElroy said she is excited about leading the trip and is looking to add more service components if time allows. She hopes students take something away from the trip and have fun.

“It feels good to be part of something bigger than yourself,” McElroy said.

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