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Thursday, February 19, 2009

UI organizes flood clean-up project over spring break

Hundreds of homes in Cedar Rapids remain in poor condition after the June 2008 floods, and the University of Iowa community's help is needed to clean out and refurbish these structures over spring break. The University of Iowa is organizing alternative spring break service project to do post-flood cleanup in Cedar Rapids, joining volunteers from across Iowa and the rest of the nation.

UI alumni, faculty, staff, students and community members are encouraged to participate in the flood clean-up effort, which begins Saturday, March 14, and continues through Friday, March 20. The cleanup dates coincide with the official UI spring break. Commitment is left to the discretion of individual participants, who may volunteer for the entire week or any days they are available. Shifts for the cleanup are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, and transportation to and from Cedar Rapids will be provided if necessary.

Participants are encouraged to bring their own tools, if possible. Volunteers should register at The registration deadline is Monday, March 2. Any special construction skills should be noted, but are not required. Student volunteers can earn hours toward a free concert ticket at

Once the number of volunteers and their skills are determined, volunteers will be assigned to work in groups of up to 10 in flood-affected areas of Cedar Rapids, said Sue Driscoll of the United Way of Eastern Iowa. The East Central Iowa Volunteer Center is coordinating several flood clean-up projects in Cedar Rapids.

UI volunteers will join hundreds of high school and college students and church groups from around Iowa and the rest of the nation to help with flood recovery in Cedar Rapids over spring break, Driscoll added. She expects groups from the UI College of Law, Iowa State University, Grinnell High School in Iowa, as well as groups from Scranton, Pa., and Stout, Wis., to help.

Among those planning to assist in the cleanup are UI President Sally Mason and her husband, Ken, as well as Tom Rocklin, interim vice president for student services and dean of students.

"My husband Ken and I very much look forward to helping our neighbors in Cedar Rapids who were affected by last year's flood. I encourage members of the UI community to spend a little or a lot of time over spring break helping people get back on their feet in this important way," Mason said.

"I was amazed, but not surprised, by how the UI and Iowa City communities came together locally as we battled the flood last summer, and I hope as many of us as possible can extend that spirit of mutual support to those in need in Cedar Rapids. It's a great and caring way to spend some time off of work or school," she said.

The UI effort began after John Laverty, associate director in the UI Office of Admissions, contacted UI Civic Engagement Program and later the Office of Student Life to form groups of interested UI staff and students to organize the project.

"I remembered hearing about UI students going on spring break to help victims of Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast, and wondered if there were any efforts underway to do something to help the local flood victims this spring break," said Laverty, who saw the flood devastation as a Cedar Rapids resident.

For more information about the Cedar Rapids flood cleanup, contact the Office of Student Life at 319-335-3059.

There are several other alternative spring break options available for UI students, including some sponsored by UI Student Government. Opportunities include the Pay It Forward Tour to do service projects in several different states, two Hurricane cleanups in New Orleans, and a School of Social Work trip to Philadelphia to assist a welfare rights organization.

Campus Christian Fellowship is also offering its "Beach Reach" event in Panama City, Fla. For more information on these programs visit or email; scholarship opportunities are also available.

UI Division of Continuing Education and the UI Chicago Center are offering a Spring Break Service Learning Course in Chicago." This course is a six-day trip, March 15-20, to the southwest side of Chicago, where students will get hands-on experience working to improve the library system located at Thomas Chalmers Elementary Specialty School. Students will get hands-on experience working with children as they help organize their school's library system. For more information on this event visit

The Division of Continuing Education is also offering several credit courses as alternatives to the stereotypical spring break retreat. Courses offered through UI Recreational Services include scuba instruction in Florida, mountain biking in Utah, backpacking through national and state parks, ballroom dancing, introduction to bouldering, and a new course this semester, salsa dancing. For more information and a detailed listing of these spring break courses enter keyword "spring break" on ISIS at

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Scott Ketelsen, University Relations, 319-384-0018,; John Laverty, UI Admissions,, 319-335-0097; George McCrory, University News Services, 319-384-0012,; Writers: George McCrory and Megan McIntyre