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.