Buildin’ and Beachin’

It’s Thursday, our second to last day here. We can’t believe how fast our time here is flying by! Today we only had a half day of working so we could spend the afternoon sightseeing. We drove down to St. Augustine to rebuild a jetty that had been partially destroyed by the recent weather conditions. Somehow all of us Midwesterners thought 65 degrees and sunny felt very cold and worthy of long pants and a sweatshirt, so we were thankful for something to get us moving and working hard. We shoveled sand to fill holes and level out the beach where they were moving the rocks to and from the jetty to make it sturdier. Our hardwork definitely paid off with the sight of some dolphins right near us in the inlet when we were getting close to finishing! Once we finished our morning task we split into two groups, one going on a marsh walk with a park ranger, and the other getting a nature talk on black bears by a volunteer naturalist. We enjoyed lunch at the state park and drove to the beach in the afternoon! Although it was a only 60 degrees, we enjoyed a few hours at the beach before returning to Jacksonville for dinner and night time activities. Today was a great day, as was the whole week, because we felt as though the things we were doing were not only enjoyable but actually making a real impact by benefitting the habitat and the community, and it was all-around rewarding for all of us. Our team has bonded so much this week and really grown closer and become much better at working together to tackle a project. Tomorrow, we take on Jacksonville for the last time!

This is just a big ol’ summary…

TUESDAY – 3/20

Out of all the days on this trip, this one was simultaneously the worst and the best of them all. We split up into two different groups this time so we could cover more projects in the morning. One group went to go help residents move back into their apartment after they had been evacuated for a fire that occurred in December. My group left to work in the Clara White Mission building, a non-profit organization that assists those in need. We arrived at 8:00am and began putting on our hair nets and plastic gloves and aprons. I got put on grits and the others were assigned scrambled eggs, pastries, biscuits, and gravy. A few others were assigned to carry the trays out to the people receiving the meal. I had never worked in a kitchen like this before, and I never realized just how quick and precise you have to be! Much to my dismay, I was not very good at keeping the same proportion when scooping. We were able to feed approximately 200 people in just 2 hours.

Our next mission was to head back to the church and help to sort the donated clothes. Unfortunately, some had to be thrown into the re-purpose bin because they had gotten wet from the night before, but overall there were TONS of donated clothes. Dave, a director of social ministries at the church, told us they had received 10 full boxes of clothes to be sorted, and it took us and hour and half to do just one! There were some interesting finds in there, including about 5 bridesmaids dresses…those were something.

In the afternoon our two groups were supposed to meet back up and go to work at a food bank for the remainder of the day, however, the residents at the apartments needed more help than what was originally expected, so our group headed over there to do some work. Two to three people were sent to different apartments to continue helping the residents while the other half of our group that had been there all morning, got to go enjoy their lunch. All of us just helped the residents get their things set back up in their apartments and get things taken down to the dumpster that wasn’t needed anymore. We did a lot of good work that day and were able to help a lot of people, however, without going into detail, we had an unfortunate encounter with bed bugs. This led to a series of events that we can all look back on and laugh about now, but it was truly a bonding experience that I’ll never forget. Thanks to our fearless leaders and quick thinking, we were able to get the situation under control, even though it kind of ate up the rest of our afternoon. Sometimes things don’t always go as planned, but as long as you stay patient and stay positive, it’ll always work out in the end.

 

WEDNESDAY – 3/21

On this day we traveled back out to Little Talbot Island. Once again our group split into two, one half went to do trail cleanup, and the other half helped to destroy a boardwalk because it led to a dangerous part of the beach and the park rangers didn’t want to allow people to easily access it anymore. I don’t know what it was about it, but prying apart boards felt very empowering and helped us unwind a bit. However, the wind was pretty violent this day and the sand blowing in our face wasn’t exactly the most pleasant conditions, but we all still had a great time. Once both groups were done, we all met back up and Park Ranger Kirby talked to us about the sea turtles that nest on the beaches where we were and south of us, which was really interesting!

A shell and a skull of a loggerhead sea turtle

That was all we did for that day, so we got some time to relax in the dorms afterward, which was much needed as most of us were really beginning to feel exhausted. Since we got done early, we had some free time, so we decided to go to the Southbank Riverwalk as a fun activity. There was a long search for parking followed by a search for a place to eat, but we all had a good night of just getting to explore Jacksonville a bit.

 

THURSDAY – 3/22

Since today was beach day, our morning project was pretty small. We worked with some park rangers to repair a jetty that, over time, had become a little rough. Once we were done we got to go on a short marshland tour, then ate lunch, then headed out to go to the beach. Despite the water being FREEZING, some of us (including me) still got in the water, especially because I couldn’t miss this opportunity since it was my first time at the beach. After sunbathing, shell searching, and souvenir shopping, we headed back to the church to start gathering our things to head home.

 

FRIDAY – 3/23

Today was a long day. My small group got up at 5:45am to do breakfast prep. Then we headed over to the Boys and Girls Club to help build a playground. We had to leave there early to get back and finish packing and cleaning. Then we headed to lunch, then to the airport. It was a long night of travel, but we made it home safely around 1:30 Saturday morning. We were all exhausted and it didn’t take long for everyone to climb into bed and get some sleep.

As I sit here typing all of this up, I realize just how much I’m going to miss this trip and all the wonderful people I grew close to, which just makes me even more excited for next year.

 

We ROCKED March 22, 2018

I can’t believe it is our second to last day. This trip has been so rewarding. I am so happy to be apart of such a great team and exec board. Our team this year has all become close. This trip has been very different from my first trip, last year to Louisiana. Which I loved but this trip we have gotten to do a lot of outdoor projects which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Today, we got to work on the beach rebuilding a jeti damaged from the hurricane. I love how many projects we have gotten to do with the beaches affected by hurricane Irma. We have gotten to go to the beach 3 out of the 5 days this week. It was my job to dig the rocks out of the sand to place on the handmade peninsula (jeti). Once I dig out the rocks, I fill the holes with sand.

Our team was working so hard that we finished the project earlier than expected. Today is our half day to explore and have fun.  So, after we were done with lunch we went to the public beach near our project site and also got dinner later on. I love the ocean sometimes I wish we lived closer to the ocean. It was fun to hang out with everyone and relax a little bit. For some of us it was the first time being in the ocean. I enjoyed getting to watch their reactions. The weather was not that warm that day but some of us got in anyway. Living far from the beach; we wanted to get in the water!

Jeti!

Workin on the jeti

On our way to the beach!

 

 

 

 

Day One. Check.

MONDAY – 3/19

We’re finally here after such a long wait. We’ve already finished our first day of work and we’re getting ready for the rest of the week.

Since it was pouring buckets this morning, our beach cleanup was postponed until later. So we began our day at the Ripault Club house on Fort George Island. We did a lot of detail cleaning like cleaning windows, cleaning baseboards and cleaning the wall sconces. Once we finished that, we headed over to Kinglsey plantation to take a short tour. Although it’s more of a serious topic, it was really interesting to see how small the houses were that the slaves lived in and learn more about their lives on a plantation.

After that, we headed over to Little Talbot Island and had lunch. The eager of us scarfed down our sandwiches quickly so we could go see the ocean. I finally got to see the ocean for the first time, and it just made me even more excited for Thursday when we actually get to be in the water and hang out at the beach. But, the moment was short lived because once we were done eating, we got to head out to clean up the hurricane debris in the dunes by the beach. Believe me, I’m all for picking up trash and cleaning up the environment, but the sand spurs and jumping cacti really tested my patience and will power today. Each step had to be carefully calculated so as to not step on the cacti, which were everywhere. But, we all made it out alive with just a few nicks and scrapes, and with bags full of trash. It was tedious work, but overall rewarding to know that our first day has already made a difference.

We’re all exhausted and, I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m excited to see what the rest of the week holds.

We Out(ta) Here – Final Night’s Rundown

Hey y’all –

Since I’m in group three, tonight (Thursday the 22nd) is my night to post on the blog. This is the last night Northwest ASB is spending in Jacksonville, which means our last night in the church. I’d like to start out by saying that I am absolutely thankful for this roof over our head and the meals provided for us by Steve, Amy, Jordan, and all the employees here! It exceeded my expectations by far, and I’m so glad I’ve had this experience that I’ll remember for a long time to come. We are all blessed to have such wonderful execs and leaders who worked together to make sure this trip went by with minimal trip-ups, which are never avoidable in the first place – they did a wonderful job!

Today was actually a half-day of work and a half day of play, but a whole day of fun. I can actually hear Jordan talking about how relaxing today was as I type this, so I’ll use that as my proof that I’m credible in saying this. This morning we worked out at Fort Matanzas replenishing a jetty and filling in areas with sand around it. I learned a lot about Florida wildlife both via rangers and up close (here’s looking at you, lil crabs). After we finished that and split off for small informational sessions and lunch, we changed and headed to St. Augustine beach, where we spent a few hours just relaxing/cooling off (literally). It was a good chance for all of us to unwind after a long week of good, hard work and it was very obviously needed. To wrap up the night, we ate at Timoti’s Seafood Shak and now I’m here writing this post, packing up and reflecting on the last few days. Although they have been an absolute joy, I can say with confidence that I’m excited to finish off strong with this team and head back home to my pets and the last four weeks of the semester, as well as mentally prepare myself for a new ASB trip in another year from now. We’ll see how things go. :^)

-Whitney Henry

Thursday March 22

Today we went to Fort Marazana National Park down in the St. Augustine area of Florida, where we helped clean a jetty. A jetty allows the bank to stop and prevent water from overflowing allowing people to walk across. From the damage of hurricane Irma the jetty got destroyed and it was our job to work as a team to put it together. The rocks had to be jigsawed together in order to make it flat. After this we were able to spend the other half of the day for fun at the beach in St. Augustine! I really enjoyed learning what a jetty was and then seeing how much work we got accomplished. It looked so good!!

Day 3

Today was interesting. Our large group of 22 was split into two groups, both of which had different tasks. One group was responsible for demolishing an old board walk that was destroyed by hurricane Irma. The other group was responsible for clearing branches that were blocking paths on a hiking trail.  My group was the trail clean-up crew and we were split into two more teams so that we could cover the entire trail before our day was over. We made huge progress and even cut down a large branch that was blocking hikers paths. The group that was working on the boardwalk made huge progress and helped to get a lot of it deconstructed.

A ranger also spoke to us about sea turtles and how us cleaning up the beaches was helping the turtles get to safety to lay their eggs and get back to the ocean. We got to see the skull of a leather back turtle and the shell of a different kind of turtle. The ranger also answered questions about how turtles dig their holes and how many clutches they can lay in a breeding season. He also answered how rangers could tell the difference between the type of turtle nests.

At the end of the day our whole group went out to downtown Jacksonville and enjoyed a night out on the town. A large group of us ended up in one restaurant, while others ended up in a sushi joint and another restaurant. Our time in downtown Jacksonville was well earned and let us take some time to relax and enjoy the scenery. Hopefully our half day on Thursday will be nice so that we can enjoy the beach and our day off.

A Little Rain Never Hurt Nobody

Yesterday Florida was not exactly the sunshine state. Because of the rain we spent the day moving tenants back into a apartment building that burnt down in the summer. While helping unpack, our group was introduced to a very diverse group of people. One person in particular touched my heart. Her name was Ms. Mattie. Ms Mattie is a 52 year old widow from Chicago and in the little time I spent with her, her big heart shined.  We helped Ms. Mattie move back into her apartment and got to hear about her school life in Georgia and her slight tendencies to hoard. It was amazing to see how much our little bit of work brightened her whole day. It was also amazing to see how Ms. Mattie effected all of our attitudes. Even though it was not sunny outside, spending the day with Ms. Mattie brightened our day!

My Experience So Far

My experience with the trip to Florida so far has been amazing. I have met so many people with very positive attitudes about service and life in general. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to do this. Many people do not have the means to travel or live comfortably like I do, and this trip has helped me to see that. On Tuesday the 20th we visited the apartment of an elderly woman named Mrs. Matty. Mrs. Matty had to move out of her old apartment because of a fire and had recently moved into the apartment we visited. When we knocked on her door and told her we were there to help her unpack and organize her place she became overwhelmed and burst into tears. She explained to us that the movers had thrown all of her stuff into boxes with no form of organization. She hadn’t taken a shower in weeks because her bathtub was filthy. When we unpacked her stuff she was very grateful and she asked us to throw away a lot of her things.
About 2 hours into our visit her kids came into the apartment and told us that Mrs. Matty was not in her right mind and we shouldn’t be throwing all of her stuff away. Mrs. Matty told us she was fine and could make decisions for herself. We ended up working it out in the end, but this whole experience made me realize how badly the elderly can be treated in this country and how they are often forgotten or tossed aside. Mrs Matty wasn’t the only elderly person we helped out, and the others were just as memorable.

Jacksonville 3/21

Today (Wednesday) we went to Little Talbot Island State Park where  I got to help clear hiking trails by removing plants that were covering the walkways. The hike that we went on was about three miles long and we got to see all sorts of plants and wildlife. We came across banana trees, live oaks, moss, and tons of palm trees on the plant side and we saw some lizards and a snake on the wildlife side. Clearing the trails was great because it allows others to cherish how great this planet really is. After lunch we got to learn all about the sea turtles that lay their eggs in the sand dunes that we helped clean up. The mating season for sea turtles is from May to September and only about 1/4th of the sea turtles end up surviving. A the beach they had loggerhead sea turtles and green sea turtles. The sand dunes we helped clean up are very important for the survival of sea turtles. Overall, I really did enjoy the day soaking up the sun and enjoying the peaceful outdoors.