Canton Trip Changes Lives in Mississippi, Changes Lives of Service Team


Gioia Cumicek, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

Twenty Notre Dame students left for the Canton, Mississippi, service trip on March 9.

“I would absolutely love to do the trip again. It was an incredible experience,” said Elizabeth Hoeppner.

Once the students arrived in Canton they began working on several different projects.

The first day they worked from 8:30-4 p.m, the second 9 a.m.-5:30, and the third day 8:30-1:30.

Some of the projects that Hoeppner was involved in included patching a hole in the floor of a trailer, building stairs off the back deck, putting in new drywall and putting new supports in under the floor of the trailer.

Lydia Sladek participated in re-flooring, putting in new walls, staining cabinets and building a deck.

In all, the students were able to help fix a trailer for a woman who had recently lost her home, help fix another home for a lady whose house also needed repairing, worked at the local food pantry, helped members of the community bring food to their cars as it began to rain, and worked in a garden where vegetables were grown for the local pantry.

“The boys shoveled gravel into areas of the garden while the girls hauled bags of manure and soil weighing roughly 40 pounds each. It was a messy job requiring great strength as we trudged through the mud weighed down by the bags of soil and manure,” said Sladek.

The mud day caused for much bonding time as the students’ boots were being pulled off by the mud and they were constantly slipping and fallingin the mud.

“At one point, I had lifted my foot for another step as I carried a bag of soil to a garden bed, but instead of moving forward, I completely fell in the mud. My foot had become lodged in the mud bringing my whole body down with it,” said Sladek.

After each day of service, the group was able to come together to say a prayer and share their highs and lows of that day. The students slept in a church gymnasium, which served as a place of rest, games and breakfast each day.

“My favorite thing we did was patch the hole in the floor of the trailer on the first day. Mr. Kriegl, Marty, Owen and I had a great time measuring and re-measuring and cutting boards the wrong way. Once it was all finished, it was incredibly satisfying to sit and say, ‘Yes, we just did that,’”said Hoeppner.

Sladek has been humbled by this service experience. It was an inspiration to her seeing how thankful those less fortunate were considering their circumstances. The laborious work was well worth it, she said, in knowing the impact it made and the sense of accomplishment she felt.

The friendships she made over the course of that week are “held special” and she feels so grateful to be a part of such a wonderful experience.