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Appalachia Volunteers Of BC Win Grant For This Year’s Program

Assoc. News Editor

Published: Sunday, February 12, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

     The Appalachia Volunteers of Boston College have recently won a $2,500 grant from Liberty Mutual's Responsible Scholars Alternative Spring Break Grants program. This grant could not have come at a better time, as the Appalachia Volunteers find themselves in a very unusual situation this year—short of volunteers.

     "We have 500 spots, and right now we have 470 volunteers signed up," said Lauren Malishchak, Appalachia Volunteers' co-head coordinator and A&S '12. "We don't usually have this problem, but I know that other programs have had similar problems this year in terms of recruitment. We still have 30 spots open, so we're searching some people out, if anyone is looking for spring break plans."

     Malishchak does not believe that the volunteers' experiences will be adversely impacted by the shortage.

     "The trips are all different sizes," she said. "They run up from about 12 people to about 21. You can have a great trip whether you're in a group of 10 or 20 people, so I don't think the shortage will impact the groups too much. We're looking for about 30 people, and we have about 30 trips. It's like each trip will be down one person, so it's not a big deal."

     Though trip organizers such as Malishchak would like to find 30 volunteers simply in order for more students to experience a great service opportunity, they would also like to bring their number of volunteers up to 500 for financial reasons.

     "The big thing for us is that we might have to pay extra money that we're not actually using to send volunteers," Malishchak said. "I think we're doing pretty well with our budget, however. As we've gotten more and more participants throughout the year, our budget has kept on pace with the size of the program."

     The Appalachia Volunteers program did not apply for the grant that they recently won because of this year's unusual circumstances, but because it has helped the program achieve its budget goals in the past.   

     "This is an award that we've won in previous years," Malishchak said. "Our campus minister recommended that we apply. With a program like Appalachia that has such a big budget, we look for a lot of different sources of funding. Our budget each year is over $300,000, so every little bit helps."

     Members of the Appalachia Council believe that the Appalachia Volunteers program has been able to win this award with such frequency because of its accepting nature.

     "One thing that makes it really special at BC is that you don't have to apply to be part of it," Malishchak said. "It's a great way to get involved with service at BC and a great foundational program and stepping stone for some of the more competitive service groups like 4Boston and Arrupe. I think that other organizations have really commended us for that. That's why we're a staple on campus in terms of the service community."

     Liberty Mutual's recent grant will help fund a program with a 33-year history at BC that has had a meaningful impact on the lives of thousands of members of marginalized communities in 13 states.

     The Appalachia Volunteers program currently works with Habitat for Humanity and Volunteers for Communities programs at 33 different locations. Trips that are co-sponsored by Habitat for Humanity consist of students participating in whatever stage of construction a home may be in, from painting a finished house to setting a foundation. Trips that are co-sponsored by Volunteers for Communities consist of students doing whatever is needed to help a certain community. Past tasks have included building picnic tables for community parks and building wheelchair ramps for elderly people in the community.

     The members of the communities the Appalachia Volunteers program serves are not the only people whose lives are positively changed over spring break—the volunteers themselves leave the program as more aware and engaged individuals.

     "I think the Appalachia program has really encouraged me to make service a bigger part of my everyday life, whether it be staying in Boston and going to my PULSE placement as a sophomore, or interning at Brigham and Women's Hospital last year and this year," Malishchak said. "Awareness is really huge as well. A lot of Americans realize that extreme poverty exists in a lot of places in the world, but to realize that it exists right here in the United States, that is a smack to the face that really changes you." n

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