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"Alternative Weekend" Going Mainstream

By Andrew Feldman Article published February 12, 2002

Since Sept. 11, student interest in community service has taken off: Volunteers in Action has recorded a surge new volunteers, the September Serv-a-thon posted 100 more volunteers than ever before, and the UVM Cares effort raised $22,000 for the relief effort in New York City. But nowhere is the phenomenon more apparent than with Alternative Weekends.

UVM Americorps*VISTA worker Ben Zimmerman runs the Alternative Weekend program. "The most programs we have sent out in any semester since the program started in Spring 2000 is two. This semester, we’re offering five programs, and already there’s a waiting list," Zimmerman said.

Alternative Weekends are overnight community service trips designed to get UVM students volunteering throughout Vermont and beyond. Students get an opportunity to escape from campus for a weekend, build friendships, and learn about issues of service and community involvement. All trips are substance free and are supported with funding from the Department of Student Life and the UVM Bookstore, with a minimal cost to participants.

"Alternative Weekends are a chance for me to fit service in a busy schedule of school, work, and activities," said Kevin Jordan, a sophomore Recreation Management major from Andover, Mass., who has participated on two trips. "It’s a great opportunity to get off campus and feel like I am doing something."

This spring, five trips will match ten students each with volunteer opportunities ranging from serving the homeless to performing spring trail maintenance to working with disabled skiers. Student leaders on each trip facilitate the group in service and reflection. This semester’s trips, which are accepting waiting-list applications, are:

  • Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports (VASS) Ski Camp, Warren, VT, January 25 – 27: Volunteers worked with children with physical and mental disabilities on the slopes at Sugarbush.
  • Homeless Action Committee, Albany, NY, February 16 - 17: Volunteers will work alongside recovering and alcoholic homeless persons at a shelter.
  • Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports (VASS) Ski Race, Pico, VT, March 9 – 10: Volunteers will staff a ski race fundraiser at Pico Ski Area.
  • Rosie’s Place, Boston, MA, April 13 – 14: Volunteers will prepare and serve meals at a Boston shelter for low-income and homeless women.
  • Green Mountain Club, Long Trail, April 27 – 28: Volunteers will camp out and perform spring trail maintenance on a section of the trail in central Vermont.