By Jacob Clore
MOUND BAYOU – Ten individuals from the Newman Catholic Community at Virginia Tech spent their spring break serving in Mound Bayou.
The group is part of the Newman Outreach Projects (NOP) a series of trips organized by the Newman Community to serve those in need. The NOP serves communities in nine cities in the US and abroad during the school’s winter and spring breaks. The organization focuses on connecting with the communities in addition to performing service.
“We are called out of love to serve people in need in a variety of settings,” Father David Sharland, the group’s chaplain said. “We are here to be available to the local community and serve it any way that they see fit.”
Throughout the week, the group served in Mound Bayou and the surrounding communities. While at St. Gabriel Mercy Center, the students worked on projects including washing the center’s vehicles, planting crepe myrtle trees and visiting with the seniors who come the center every day.
They also trimmed hedges and cut grass at city hall and raked leaves at the homes of senior citizens.
The students also worked in Shelby with Mississippi Engaged in Greener Agriculture (MEGA) by planting seeds in the greenhouse at Alcorn State University Research Center.
“I enjoyed the manual labor part of it because we were actually doing something tangible,” junior Brianne Varnerin said. “You could see how much we got done.”
The volunteers slept and ate at Cleveland Our Lady of Victories Parish Hall. The members of the church community made the students feel very welcome. “It has been great,” Senior Tom Zamadics said. “Three or four families offered to take us out to eat. They really made it feel like home.”
By the end of the week the students grew in their Catholic faith and became closer with one another as a result of their experiences in Mound Bayou. The experience also left a lasting impression on the community.
“The students are energetic, competent, and eager to do whatever needs to be done,” Sister Donald Mary, Director at St. Gabriel Mercy Center, said. “They give service joyfully and energetically.”