Think spring break, and you might picture something far different from the renovation of a fire-damaged home in North Carolina.

But that’s where 31 Richard Stockton College students are spending their week on an “alternate” spring break, a trip that’s become something of a tradition at the college.

Complex Director Lisa Warnock, of Marmora, Upper Township, is in her second year participating as a staff member in the project after going on several alternative spring breaks as a student.

The program started in 2006 with a trip to Beards Fork, W.V., and some of the first locations over the next few years included Erie, Pa., and Sumter, S.C.

“There were very small groups of people in a couple vans," Warnock said. "There wasn’t a lot of interest. Now, we’re at the point where we have 31 students, a waiting list, people camping out overnight (to sign up). It’s become bigger than I’d ever imagine it to be. It’s amazing to see the growth in popularity and how dedicated students are to this program.”

The students and five staff members are in Rocky Mount, N.C., to help restore a home damaged by fire that was donated to the local Habitat for Humanity. The program is in its sixth year in Rocky Mount, where staff and returning students are on a first-name basis with Habitat members and members of the Dortches Baptist Church where they stay.

“This is actually my third year on the trip,” said Beth Janansky, 22, a senior from Egg Harbor Township. “It’s a great experience, and super-rewarding working with Habitat for Humanity and the other students at Stockton.”

So far, Janansky said, “we’ve done some demolition work, painted the walls, taken out the floors, and taken off some of the roof and started to reassemble it.”

Once the home is fixed, Habitat will sell it to fund additional projects, according to a Stockton statement. The group anticipates raising more than $125,000 on the project.

“We are able to give back to the community in such a short period of time, and have so much fun while doing it,” said student Victoria Dean, of Manahawkin. “This trip opens your eyes to what other areas of the world are like. It's a whole new environment that everyone should have the opportunity to experience”

Of course, there are other reasons the trip is so popular as well.

“I really enjoy helping people, and I like making a difference,” said senior Tara Pino, 22, of Hammonton when asked why she joined. “And also just because my friends are on the trip,” she jokingly admitted.

The project raises funds throughout the year to pay for the trip and to donate to Habitat, Warnock said. This year, they expect to donate more than $2,000. Another alternative spring break group is getting training on campus from Stockton’s activist-in-residence Erin O’Hanlon, with the Women’s Center, on sexual assault and domestic violence victim advocacy.

For more information or to donate, contact Stockton Student Development at 609-652-4205 or email GetInvolved@stockton.edu

Contact Steven Lemongello:

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More than 30 years’ experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines in Illinois, Colorado, Texas and New Jersey and 1985 winner of the Texas Daily Newspaper Association’s John Murphy Award for copy editing.