University of Redlands students spend spring break helping rebuild tornado-ravaged Missouri town

REDLANDS, Calif.

It took less than an hour for a tornado to destroy the town of Joplin, Missouri in May 2011. Almost a year later, it is still a disaster zone.

"It's been nine months since it happened and there is still so much work that needs to be done," said Joseph DiMartino, a University of Redlands student.

Joseph DiMartino is one of 16 University of Redlands students who paid to spend their spring break helping in the cleanup effort in Joplin. The group hauled away rubble, demolished crumbling buildings and helped rebuild homes.

"It was hard to be completely ready to see all of that, but once you got there you thought, 'Let's go to work. Let's roll up our sleeves and get out there and really try to make a difference while we're here,'" said student Andrew Pavlov.

At the University of Redlands, students are required to complete 80 hours of community service before graduating, but for these students those hours were already completed when they left for their trip to Joplin.

"When it comes to recruiting students to do service or to go on trip like this that doesn't ever seem to be the challenging part," said Erin Sanborn, associate director of Community Service Learning at the university. "Sometimes I feel like it's finding enough for them to do."

Sanborn says students logged more than 880 hours during their eight-day stay. It's a spring break week that students say will stay with them for a lifetime.

"It's nice that because we're able to go in, everyone recognized that we were giving up our spring break, but the funny thing is that I feel like to all us it wasn't giving up anything. It was getting more," said student Cara Swearingen.

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