Thursday, February 9, 2012

Fencer Johnson Spent Her Winter Break Helping Others

Freshman Jill Johnson of the women's fencing team spent part of her winter break in Tuscaloosa, AL as part of the University of Detroit Mercy's University Ministry Alternative Winter Break (AWB) Program. From Jan. 1-8, Johnson was with eight individuals, including six students, who helped provide tornado relief over the break. Johnson was able to recap her time in Alabama and shared it with the Detroit Titans Blog. For more information, including the background story on the Alternative Winter Break Program at Detroit, read the ORIGINAL STORY from

Jan. 1, 2012

Day 1:

Johnson (right) helping out
Our flight departed from Detroit at approximately 12:20 p.m. and we arrived, after a flight assisted by an incredibly unusual flight attendant, at approximately 2:10 p.m. Eastern time. The time is an hour behind here so I had to stay up an entire hour longer! We went directly from the airport to an AMAZING barbecue restaurant in Birmingham called Jim ‘N Nick’s Barbeque.  I have never experienced a barbecue meal like this one! The sweet tea was incredible not to mention the cheesy cornbread muffins to start off the large meal. After we ate lunch we departed from Birmingham and travelled directly through Tuscaloosa to find our destination. Camp Coker was a pleasant surprise. We were greeted at the housing facility by Virginia, her husband, their daughter Greta, and Josh. Josh will be our leader throughout this entire trip and will be our guide as we work in the city. The facilities are AMAZING! Three wonderful rooms full of bunk beds and a huge storage room that is used as a housing place for water and any type of tool or equipment used to build a house imaginable.  The kitchen was already fully stocked with tons of food and ingredients, making the Wal-Mart trip for our group ten times easier. Tomorrow we are heading off to help move debris from an elderly man’s lawn that has remained a part of his property since the tornado hit.  I am incredibly excited for tomorrow yet am terribly exhausted by this busy day. Can’t wait to see what Tuscaloosa has to offer. P.S… THE CITY IS GORGEOUS!!!! It is truly a perfect, college football town. The people are so friendly and nice. I could get used to this kind of treatment by strangers as well as friends.

A team project
Johnson taking care of business

Day 2-6:
We have met a ton of people from all around the city of Tuscaloosa. We followed the path of the tornado and met a group of people from each different neighborhood. It was super interesting learning about the different experiences through the same catastrophe. We also met the city planner and the mayor. I am so inspired by the strength of the mayor through this period in the city. His city has been torn from its roots and he has worked relentlessly to put it back together in a better way than before. He and the city planner have made intricate plans to build the city back into a more eco-friendly and economically efficient way to improve the city from what it used to be. I think that as a whole, the leading people in Tuscaloosa have taken this disaster and come back from it stronger and are now ready for anything. Over this week we have worked on a single house for a woman named Ms. Mack. She has visited the work site and it has been truly an honor to meet the woman for whom we are working so hard. We came to this work site with literally the concrete blocks laid on the floor and we are leaving with the rafters being prepared to be put up. We worked to lay the interior and exterior framework on the house and sheathed the entire house as well. I have loved serving the people of Tuscaloosa and Ms. Mack. They have been so grateful when in reality we are the ones that should be saying thank you. They are truly such an inspiration. They have returned from the ashes and have learned to become stronger.  I have felt like I should be saying thank you to the city of Tuscaloosa for this amazing experience. This trip has helped me to see that there is a purpose for me in this world and that I can help others in a meaningful way.

The group

Day 7:
Well we are leaving today. I am sad that I cannot stay for longer. This is the first trip, including vacation, where I have not wanted to go home at all. I have enjoyed every minute of this experience and know for a fact that I will be attending many more service trips to come. I have learned how to serve others and feel that I can take this feeling of service to the city of Detroit. 

1 comment:

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