Boston University students pitch in at Natchez Children’s Home

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 13, 2009

NATCHEZ — On Saturday, 13 students from Boston University piled into a van headed out of town for spring break.

The van headed south but its destination wasn’t the beach.

The van full of college students stopped in Natchez to spend the week working at the Natchez Children’s Home.

Email newsletter signup

The service trip is part of an alternative spring break program sponsored by the school that sends groups across the country to lend a helping hand.

The students have gotten their hands dirty planting a garden at the home, organizing closets, working in the thrift store and putting up new pictures in the hallway of the children’s home. They have also spent time working with the children in the home’s day treatment preschool program.

Joe Mitchell, director of development at Natchez children’s home, said this year is the fifth consecutive year to have students from Boston University at the children’s home. Over the years the student volunteers have been top notch, and this year is no different, Mitchell said.

“Not all the work is glamorous,” Mitchell said. “They have done everything I have asked of them, done it with a great attitude and done it well. That’s not always the case.”

Erica Mahoney, a sophomore at Boston University, said her favorite project of the week has been planting the garden behind the home. She said, although she isn’t a gardener, the work was fulfilling.

“The garden is something that is permanent and that will be there for everyone to enjoy,” Mahoney said. “It is like our little mark here.”

Krysten Muldoon, also a sophomore said setting aside her spring break was not a hard decision because she didn’t want to spend the week doing nothing.

“It is hard to set aside time to do community service when you are busy with classes,” she said. “The opportunity to come here for a week and do this was one that I couldn’t pass up.”

While Mahoney and Muldoon are on their first alternative spring break trip, trip coordinator Sam Kuttner is a veteran spring breaker. Kuttner, a junior, is on his third trip. His others have been to Chicago and Atlanta. He said Natchez has been a unique experience — one that he has enjoyed.

“I’m a New York City boy and very southeast centered,” he said. “The way people treat each other is eye-opening. When you see people on the street, they say hello to you. That doesn’t happen much there.”

The group is being hosted by Community Chapel in Natchez. The church opened its doors to the group and is also allowing them to use their kitchen to cook meals.

But the church isn’t the only group that is being generous to the visitors. The students have also been able attend the Historic Natchez Pageant and the “Southern Exposure” at Natchez Little Theatre.

“This is something I definitely want to do again,” sophomore Julie Leifer said.

And Mitchell said the group, or any other group, is always welcome at the children’s home.

“I look forward to them being here each year,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about them working. They do things that we would normally have to hire someone to do so they save us on the financial end, but it also gives the children more individual attention and new people to play with.”