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Spring break at the house: MECC students volunteer for housing rehabilitation

Mike Still; • Apr 4, 2019 at 12:20 PM

BIG STONE GAP – Many college students spend spring break at a warm beach, but five Mountain Empire Community College students spent their break at the house – a house in Greensboro, N.C.

Kylee Bundy, Cameo Smith, Tanner Lawson, Alex Haley and Caleb Richardson signed up for the college’s first Alternative Spring Break program to help Greensboro’s Habitat for Humanity program rehabilitate a run-down house.

“It was our first year, but I hope to make it an annual service project,” MECC Student Activities Coordinator Kari Paschetto said Wednesday. “I knew the first time I saw them, this was the best team I could have asked for.”

The students agreed that they signed up for the program because they shared a common bond as college student government association members who wanted to give back something to their community.

“I feel like I don’t donate enough time, and I wanted to do something about it,” said Lawson, a math and chemistry major from Big Stone Gap.

“We’d thought about volunteering, and this was a chance to do something,” said Haley, a senior business administration major from Pennington Gap.

Accompanied by Paschetto and college Student Support Services advisor Kemper Edwards, the group joined with the Habitat Greensboro volunteers to renovating the old frame home. Bundy, a Gate City resident who plans to transfer to ETSU in the fall to earn a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, said the team got to work tearing down paneling, tearing up carpet and removing old plumbing.

Lawson found himself helping build a new front porch for the house while Richardson, a drafting and design major from Duffield, wielded a nail gun and power saw to help with the construction.

Richardson said he got to use some skills he learned in an unusual setting: building sets for the college’s Halloween annual Haunted Forest.

Bundy said she also got through an occupational hazard of home renovation

“I hit my thumb so many times,” Bundy said with a laugh.

Pulling up carpet, tearing down paneling and removing old plumbing kept the students, Paschetto and Edwards busy their first couple of days.

“The first few days after work, we’d go and take a nap for an hour then eat,” said Haley. “There was a lot of good food, and a lot of Krispy Kreme doughnuts.”

The MECC group found themselves working with a group from Eastern University from Pennsylvania, and Haley said they all became friends.

“It was different learning to live with 11 people and only one shower,” Haley said.

While the Habitat Greensboro and MECC volunteers worked hard, they also had some fun after hours. Habitat volunteers brought the team into their homes for home cooked meals, and the group spend off-hours at a women’s basketball tournament and recreation somewhat related to their week-long day job.

“We actually got out of an escape room,” said Cameo Smith, a biochemistry and communications major from Appalachia.

“To be honest, when we got in the van to go on this trip, we really didn’t know each other,” Haley said.

“We became friends,” Smith added.

Smith said the experience has gotten her and the group thinking about volunteering at Natural Tunnel for an upcoming park and trail cleanup project.

“A lot more came out of this than I thought would,” Lawson said. “Without this trip, the SGA might not even exist now.”

For more information regarding MECC’s Alternative Spring Break or other student activities, contact Paschetto, Great Expectations and Student Activities Coordinator, at (276) 523-2400, ext. 422.

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