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Redbirds form friendships while volunteering at animal shelter

Humans painting bench

Redbirds paint a bench at Humane Tomorrow, an organization building a new animal shelter facility near Dallas, Texas.

Editor’s note: Opportunities to participate in civic engagement activities are a core part of student life at Illinois State. Alternative Spring Break has been one way outreach is accomplished, with groups of students traveling to volunteer in various parts of the country during the March break from classes. This year teams left prior to travel restrictions enforced as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Itineraries were changed and trips cut short in order to get students back to campus safely. These stories are shared as an uplifting reminder of how Redbirds collaborate and care for each other.

The safety, security, and well-being of animals was on the mind of a group of Redbirds during their 2020 Spring Break.

Nine students and two staff members completed 400 hours of service at Humane Tomorrow, an organization building a new animal shelter facility near Dallas, Texas. The trip was organized by the Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program at the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning.

“This was a brand new facility for Humane Tomorrow, and it has taken a long time to come together due to rain and such,” said Blair Canedy, a graduate student in the College Student Personnel Administration Program and a staff advisor on the trip. “We were able to get a lot of work done that would have cost Humane Tomorrow a lot of hours and money for someone else to do. We may not have worked directly with the animals, but we definitely made a mark on their new facility for years to come!”

Junior psychology major Joie Pecoraro was a student leader on the trip.

“My tasks included designing and painting a bench for their outdoor recreation area, laying down sod/grass, making blankets and toys for the dogs, and painting a storage shed,” Pecoraro said. “I worked alongside every person on my ASB team, as well as various individuals who came by to volunteer on their own. We had the opportunity to also work with renowned artists who assisted us in our bench-making.”

Woman scrapes building

Blair Canedy does painting prep work for a project the group completed during the week.

While the group enjoyed the work they did, they also formed a close bond. “Getting to meet and work with such a wonderful group of participants was amazing,” Pecoraro said. “The group clicked like no other, and we had a blast from day one until day seven. It was great. Getting to experience a new part of the country with such hilarious people made going to Texas even more exciting than expected.”

Canedy agrees.

“ASB has the ability to spark passion in students as well as create long-lasting relationships for those that attend,” she said. One of her favorite memories from the trip is the way group members included their bus driver, Dick. “He stayed with us during service when we could include him, and the participants made sure that he was a part of our group. This just showed how inclusive our participants and leaders were!”

The group was serving in Texas when it was announced that Spring Break would be extended and classes moved online due to coronavirus (COVID-19). The group’s final day of service was cancelled due to COVID-19. While disappointed about the situation, the Redbirds kept their spirits up. The bond among participants helped even more at that point.

“They really came together as a group to positively lift up the student leaders who had to make difficult decisions about the trip,” Canedy said. “The leaders really wanted to give participants something to look forward to. And the participants also helped each other when it came to housing or rides home to make sure everyone was safe after we returned to ISU. That bond really showed me the magic of ASB.”