My spring break, broken down by the numbers:
- 4,529 candy bars
- 450+ tweets (approximately #missouligans)
- 198 photos taken
- 37 requests for “Mean Girls”
- 13 volunteers
- 10 air mattresses
- 8 days
- 6 states
- 5 community service sites
- 5 flights
- 3 hikes
- 2 Jesus vans
- 2 national parks
- 1 incredible Alternative Spring Break trip to Missoula, Montana
I wasn’t actually planning on going to Montana for Spring Break (hard to believe, right?). I had put myself on the waitlist for ASB after I was unable to register in time to grab a trip and subsequently forgot all about it…until I received an e-mail about open trips. Needless to say, I was excited and put my name down for almost every trip with an open spot. The Tuesday before we were supposed to leave, I sent in my deposit to head to Missoula, Montana for a week of hunger-related community service.
I was overjoyed at being able to go on an Alternative Spring Break trip, especially since this year marked my last opportunity to ever participate in one. After hearing all the great things about ASB, I knew I was going to have an amazing week.
On Saturday, March 11th, I woke up early to meet my group and head to Logan Airport in a van. It was great to see the other flying trips (San Juan and Flagstaff were the two I remember seeing in the lot) getting so excited to leave for the week! When we met up at the airport, I could immediately tell that I was lucky to have a fantastic group. From the get-go, everyone was so friendly and funny. The week was destined to be awesome.
We connected in Minneapolis and touched down in Missoula around 8 that night. During our time in Missoula, the South Hills Evangelical Church (SHEC) served as our home base–we were lucky enough to receive air mattresses, food and hot meals from the parishioners, which was incredibly generous.
On Sunday, we woke up with a purpose: go to Glacier National Park. Even though the weather in Montana isn’t completely ideal for seeing a national park, it didn’t matter to our group. We had such a great time in the van getting to know one another that the 2 hour drive went by in a flash. Once we arrived at Glacier, we ate lunch at Lake McDonald (which Frank so lovingly confused with the fast food chain…in front of our guide Becky. She was not amused). We hiked through the snowy park and saw lots of rocks, trees and lichen (ugh) but no animals. However, the park was gorgeous and I can only imagine how breathtaking it can be during the warmer weather.
Monday was officially our first day of service. We began our day at the Montana Food Bank Network, where we met our site coordinator, Jeff (sigh). He was awesome. We did a lot of food-related work during the day, including rummaging through 2,000 pounds of potatoes and making bags of Cheerios for distribution. Of course, we had to have a dance party during service–when we came back on Friday, Jeff already had a boombox waiting for us with the radio on.
When the day was over, our group went into downtown Missoula and rode the 2nd fastest carousel in the United States of America. I definitely never thought I’d do something even remotely close to that. With our visit to the carousel came the first of many inside jokes and catchphrases (“Spring break!”). That night, a SHEC parishioner made us tater tot casserole, the first (and probably last) time I’d ever eat potatoes deep-fried in a pan.
The next day, we hopped in God’s Lifeboat–that was actually written on our van–and headed back towards Glacier for service at the Flathead Food Bank. The Flathead Food Bank is not just a food bank, though–it’s an enterprise. The owners are currently trying to open a furniture store, which resulted in us helping them move things all across the display area. We also got to work with another part of their business, the Flathead Food Bank Thrift Store. The thrift store is a new addition to the food bank and we helped fold clothes, stack shoes and prepare the store during the afternoon. Of course, we couldn’t help but poke around the store a little, too. Most of us wound up buying flannels and sweaters we later dubbed “Montana chic.” My fabulous baggy sweater only cost $3! And all proceeds from the thrift store help benefit the Flathead Food Bank.
Wednesday was a ridiculously busy and epic day for our group. We visited two service sites in the morning and afternoon and continued with a tour of the University of Montana. In the morning, we worked at Missoula 3:16, a soup kitchen for the people of Missoula. They didn’t necessarily end up needing our help with serving food, so we helped clean the entire place (it’s really small) and then engaged in some casual Bible trivia with the owner. Overall, very interesting. In the afternoon, we worked at the Missoula Food Bank. This site had all sorts of food-related activities for us–my small group and I stocked piles and piles of juice to be prepared for distribution later in the week. My friend Alyssa and I also worked on assembling healthy snacks for children as a part of the food bank’s focus on childhood nutrition.
The University of Montana is almost the complete opposite of Boston University. It is located in a grassy, green, open area with lots of spread-out buildings and mountains in the background. BU, well, we have a street (albeit a really, really, really cool one). We were able to see the Hall of Champions, the UMontana football stadium and the gym, plus we had dinner at their Food Zoo aka dining hall. But before dinner we hiked, the “M,” the 620-foot mountain with an “M” on it that all UMontana students climb at least once. The hike was…interesting. Let’s just say I haven’t used my hiking boots in probably ten years before this trip. However, the view from the top was completely worth it. We all made it up the “M” alive and subsequently had a reason to celebrate. And we did celebrate that night by watching “Mean Girls.”
On Thursday, our group took a trip to Idaho to visit the Jerry Johnson Hot Springs. These are natural hot springs buried 1.5 miles into the Idaho woods. In order to get there, we hiked a narrow trail through the snow (obviously snowballs were involved). Not going to lie, I was afraid we’d see a bear or something crazy but we made it there safely. The hot springs were small but super exciting! I had never seen one before and it was really fun to get in a bathing suit in the middle of a snowy forest in order to sit in something that felt like a bathtub. The hike back was so scenic–the woods honestly looked like a calendar or postcard photo. Katie summed it up perfectly by saying, “If you googled ‘beautiful nature,’ this is the view that would come up.”
Our group visited the Povarello Center (or “The Pov”) in the afternoon, where some of us painted and others helped with clothing deliveries. The Pov is one of Missoula’s most prominent nonprofits and it’s obvious why. The people who work there are dedicated to their jobs and providing people who are struggling with a helping hand. It was definitely one of my favorite sites.
Friday was our final day of service–the week had flown by! We returned to the Montana Food Bank Network and Jeff had lots of work waiting for us. During the morning, we made piles of food boxes for distribution–almost all of them were taller than me. It was also a great morning because a local TV reporter came by and interviewed Lindsey (our chaperone and the Community Service Center director), Haley and Frank! Check out the story: http://www.kpax.com/news/boston-university-students-serve-montana-community/
During the afternoon, we assembled more Cheerio bags until it was time to leave. As a group, I think we all loved the Montana Food Bank Network and wished we could have worked more with them over the course of the week. The other sites were amazing, though, and we left Missoula with a well-rounded view of what it’s like to be hungry and living in Montana.
Saturday was hands-down our biggest day of the trip. We decided to make the trek to Yellowstone National Park, a destination almost four and a half hours away from Missoula. Worth it? Absolutely. When we arrived, we were shocked at the spectacular beauty of the park. Our first destination was the Boiling River, where we stripped down to our bathing suits (and underwear for the 11 of us who forgot) and went in the freezing cold/scalding water. It was such a beautiful place to visit and an even better one to experience, even if it meant being cold and burnt at the end. We continued our excursion by driving the van through the woods. This was our first experience with animals in Montana and it was everything we wanted and more. We got to see bison in bulk, including when they blocked traffic! We also took a trip to a waterfall and Mammoth Hot Springs, which were both beautiful. On the way home from Yellowstone/YOLOstone, we stopped and got dinner at the Montana Ale Works. The food was delicious and necessary for our group–we really, really love food. A lot. After heading to bed around 2 AM, we had a wake-up time for 5:30 in order to get to our flight on time.
We didn’t need it. Our flight on Sunday ended up being delayed almost 2 hours and we missed our connection in Minneapolis because of it. The airport consisted of lots of stressing, calling and reflecting–we filled out papers with our names on it and wrote what each person contributed to this fantastic trip. Even though it was a long day, we still managed to have a ridiculously fun time together. Perfect group (totes perf). We flew from Minneapolis to New York and literally ran through the airport like the scene in “Home Alone 2″ so we could catch our plane to Boston. Stressful? Yes. Entertaining? Completely.
Thank you Christa, Katie, Catie, Brittany, Maiya, Kayley, Haley, Rosie and Alyssa for being such fun fellow volunteers during this incredible week. Kudos to Frank, Amanda and Lindsey for making our trip organized, fun and completely “T.” I will always keep this week close to my heart–we bonded, laughed, sang, danced and shared constantly. WHOO! SPRING BREAK!