When tornadoes ravaged parts of Alabama last spring, Augusta Christian Schools football players and cheerleaders rushed to the state.
The students traveled to the hardest-hit areas, pitching in to help residents recover from the natural disaster.
By August, cheerleading coach Jaime McKie decided to create a full-fledged program to help in recoveries after witnessing the initial trip’s success.
“I have yet to ever have a trip that I didn’t have to turn kids away because everybody wants to go,” she said.
Pupils in the middle and high schools have since returned to Alabama and made several trips to Chester, S.C., and Graniteville, S.C., to help those communities, which often includes cleaning, repair work, painting and lifting spirits.
They also work in Augusta, renovating the Garden City Rescue Mission and cleaning up yards for residents who live in homes near the Martinez school on Baston Road.
A group of about 43 seniors is scheduled to travel on Thursday to Mobile, Ala., Biloxi, Miss., and New Orleans for a week of mission work. They’ll finish the week in Houma, La., by working at a home for mentally disabled children.
“It’s good to feel like you’re doing something worthwhile with your time,” said senior Rachel Scaffe. “I’d rather spend my time helping those people.
“It’s just really cool to get to meet a bunch of different people and be a part of their lives.”
Another senior who volunteers his time is football player William Wolf.
The 18-year-old, also a wrestler and member of the school’s track team, started with the program in April on a trip to Alabama.
“We just go there because we want to do it,” he said. “We just love how people react toward what we’re doing.”
Each trip is supervised by teachers and coaches who travel with the students.
The students hold fundraisers such as yard sales and bake sales to pay for the trips, McKie said.
The program not only gives students a chance to see areas they might normally never visit, but also provides a learning experience outside the classroom, she said.
“They see that all the teenage drama is not really that big of a deal,” added McKie.
The Graniteville trip stands out to Scaffe for its educational value. In January 2005, a train wreck and resulting chemical spill killed nine people and caused hundreds of injuries in the small community.
Scaffe, who was about 10 years old at the time, said she never realized the effect the accident had on Graniteville until she learned firsthand.
“You don’t really get it until you’ve seen it, and you’ve seen the buildings, and you’ve seen how people’s lives were really affected by it,” she said.