By Madeleine Clow
From November 2nd to the 4th, I went on my first weekend-long Alternative Service Break (ASB). An Alternative Service Break is provided by the Center for Volunteerism and Social Action at the Department of Student Involvement at University of Idaho. I am an ASB Coordinator, and my job is to create relationships with community partners to promote engagement and relationship building between the community partner and our student volunteers. Our mission statement is, “The Alternative Service Break (ASB) program gives students the opportunity to challenge themselves and develop leadership skills through service across the globe, grounded in social justice issues, including urban poverty, racism and domestic violence.” Our program offers a variety of ASB trips that are held during weekend, winter, spring and summer breaks. Weekend ASB provides short-term service opportunities within a five-hour drive from Moscow, Idaho. Winter ASB is a more extensive service break where student teams travel abroad internationally. Spring ASB offers week-long service trips based in the Pacific Northwest. Summer ASB sends students domestically, throughout the United States, to serve our national communities. Weekend ASBs are costless to the volunteers. To be a
volunteer, all you have to do is fill out an online application on orgsync. For longer trips, financial aid can be applied for. We want any students who want to participant to have the financial means to do so.
My first ASB experience was a weekend-long trip to Sandpoint, Idaho. We partnered with community non-profit, CCS (Community Cancer Services). CCS was originated in 2002
with the mission “to improve access to medical resources, spread information about public health in rural communities, and provided emotional support for individuals who have been affected by cancer.” We volunteered “at one of CSS’s largest annual fundraisers, “A Night to Remember,” to hear the stories of survivors whose lives had been forever shaped by the staff at CCS.”
Community Cancer Services was founded in 2002 by a group of local citizens, originally called “Heather’s House.” CCS “is a non-profit, community-funded, cancer resource center providing current and reliable information and direct support services to cancer patients and their families residing in Bonner and Boundary counties of northern Idaho. CCS continues to evolve as we learn more about the needs of local cancer patients and their families.”
You can read more about CCS’ mission and goals here.
CCS provides many programs and services free of charge and with no payment expectations, such as: financial assistance and lodging during treatments, individual and family counseling, monthly support groups facilitated by licensed social workers, loanable medical equipment, the Look Good Feel Better program, yoga classes to increase physical tolerance, post-mastectomy products, financial assistance for medical bills, gas vouchers for hospital trips, a library full of information cancer-related, referral to community cancer resources and more. CCS wants their space to be inviting to cancer survivors and patients to join in, as comfy and homey. They want their office to be inviting and comfortable for patients and survivors to stop by, as if visiting a friend.
On Saturday, November 3rd, our ASB volunteer group participated in “A Night to Remember,” a night of fundraising hosted by CCS in an old church repurposed as a community center, The Heartwood Center, in Sandpoint. CCS advertised “A Night to Remember,” where the theme was to, “Wine Dine and Donate.” There were four wineries who donated a wine to be paired with a dinner course. It was a part of the ASBers jobs to disperse the featured wine for each course. The wineries also offered tastes when the guests viewed and bid on silent auction items. After dinner, there was a dessert auction followed by a live auction.
Throughout the evening, myself and fellow volunteers were assisting with greeting guests, serving wine, organizing auction bids throughout the dessert and live auction, as well as being, in charge of the wine pull. During the live auction our group of volunteers got to witness the city of Sandpoint, Idaho raise thousands of dollars for their local CCS. It was incredibly
humbling seeing the community come together and hold each other accountable for the money being raised to help save and better the lives of those in their community.
My job was to be, in charge of the wine pull. The wine pull consisted of at least forty bottles of wine of every caliber and type being donated by participating wineries and guests. The wine bottles were numbered randomly, with the corresponding numbers being placed in a basket for donators to grab from randomly. If a donor wished to participate they must donate at least twenty dollars to get their chance to pull a number to a random bottle of wine. The wine pull became a bit of a fun game for the donors to see who would win a high-quality wine for a steal of twenty dollars.
The event was incredibly entertaining and full of life, and the message behind it was strong and effective. Each person who attended the event had been affected by or had a loved one affected by cancer. Every volunteer that I worked with including myself also had a loved one affected by cancer. It was incredibly impactful working with other people who work every day to support survivors and cancer patients for the love of those they’ve known and been affected by the disease. The group that I traveled and
volunteered with are all new friends of mine. Although we all came from separate parts of the University of Idaho campus, we all came together to share the passion of volunteering. The students that I worked with are compassionate and friendly people I never would have met without ASB. The experience that we all shared impacted us all together, in different ways. And I am always excited to see them around campus to say hi and ask how they’re doing. I’m looking forward to leading my next ASB experience so that I can facilitate as great an experience as I had with my group and CCS.