University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

NEWS RELEASE

News Bureau . Schofield Hall 201 . Eau Claire, WI 54702
phone: (715) 836-4741
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Alternate Winter Break Program
Attracts More Support

 MAILED:  Feb. 5, 2004

EAU CLAIRE — For 16 years, Pastor Don Wisner of University Lutheran Church has been leading students from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire to Washington, D.C. over winter break to volunteer in schools and shelters, and every year the circle of people involved in helping with the Alternate Winter Break program — students, faculty and even some alumni — seems to grow a little larger.

This year the circle widened quite a bit when organizers received a generous grant to help underwrite the trip from the Juedes-Molinaro Family Foundation of Wausau, whose principal officers, Art and Barbara Juedes, are UW-Eau Claire alumni. Their gift helped lower the cost of the trip for students, making it more affordable for those who might not otherwise have been able to participate.

Next year, members of the Association of Student Social Workers hope to widen the circle even more by soliciting donations of school supplies from local businesses, school supply manufacturers, or anyone willing to help. For years students have been using their own funds to buy supplies to take to the inner-city schools they visit on the trip, but according to Gloria Fennell, assistant professor of social work, who accompanied her social work students this year for the second time, the need is great.

“They literally have almost nothing,” said Fennell, adding that unlike most school districts in this country which are funded primarily through state and local taxes, the Washington D. C. schools must rely on the U.S. Congress for direct funding, and, for whatever reason, seem to have been largely forgotten or neglected.

Junior Amy Majewski, Franklin, president of ASSW, said she hopes to help her group work on ideas that will allow them to bring more school supplies to Washington, D.C. next year. Majewski had to stay home to work this year, but is planning to participate in the 2005 Alternate Winter Break.

Senior Lindsay Krueger, Cumberland, helped at one of four Washington, D. C. schools, where students can work with preschool, elementary, junior high or high school students. Krueger, who is vice president of ASSW, worked with 20 children in the Headstart Program. She said it was a great experience and she definitely learned something from it.

“They were so excited about getting the supplies we brought,” said Krueger, adding that she also appreciated the chance to get to know some of the other UW-Eau Claire students on the trip, some of whom she’s been in classes with but didn’t know well.

Senior Laura Krocheski, Eagan, Minn., is secretary of ASSW and a veteran of the alternate winter break. She has formed such a strong connection with Christ House, a 34-bed health care facility and temporary residence for men who are ill and homeless, that she has applied to volunteer there for one year after she graduates.

“Working with homeless people gives you such a different perspective,” said Krocheski. “Their problems and the things they talk about are so different from what we normally think about and encounter in Eau Claire.”

Students who work at Christ House, as well as those who volunteer at the Bethany Women’s Shelter, help with practical things like cleaning, serving meals, and transporting or accompanying residents to doctor appointments, but sometimes they just talk with residents or participate in recreational activities.

Krocheski said, “When you listen to their stories, sometimes you just don’t know what to say. But it turns out that most of the time you don’t have to say anything. They just want someone to listen, and they do all the talking.”

For anyone interested in participating in next year’s trip, the 2005 itinerary is already on the Web. Anyone interested in contributing school supplies for next year’s trip can contact Majewski at majewsam@uwec.edu.

The Alternate Winter Break program is co-sponsored by University Lutheran Church, UW-Eau Claire Office of Multicultural Affairs and the UW-Eau Claire Foundation.

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 Judy Berthiaume, Director
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Schofield 201
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Updated: February 5, 2004