Hillel organization will be selling Valentine’s Day chocolates outside of the bookstore on Thursday to raise funds for their annual alternative spring break trip to New Orleans.
The organization, composed of CSUN Jewish students, is teaming up with the Matador Involvement Center to send 30 students and five staff members to the Big Easy for spring break in order to help rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.
“We’re going to be doing a lot of work,” said Nia Taylor, CSUN Hillel program coordinator. “We’re going to be working with a national relief network and we’re going to be helping with the reconstruction of homes.”
This is the third year the organization has gone to New Orleans. This year will be the first time they have partnered with CSUN.
“We have a very diverse group of students going on the trip,” said Beatriz Trejo, activity coordinator for the MIC.
Many attendees are not members of CSUN Hillel, said Taylor. We wanted to team up this year with the university in order to involve a wider cross-section of students, she said.
“It’s a multi-cultural and interfaith program so that we have students from across the board,” she said. “They’re student ambassadors, presidents of certain clubs on campus and students involved with Greek life.”
Remi Mateo, 22, a sociology major who is also a member of the Gamma Zeta Alpha fraternity, said he wanted to be sure that his brotherhood be mentioned because so many people think the Greeks are just about partying.
“I like doing lots of community service,” he said when asked why he signed up for the trip. “Plus, I just felt like people were forgetting about (Katrina).”
He also said that he grew up in Los Angeles and hasn’t really traveled very much.
“I want to experience what’s out there and see what it’s like,” he said.
Joel Simpson, 22, a junior in the Cinema and Television Arts program, will be filming the experience. He wants to “get the viewpoint of the people there? the issues facing them.” Simpson said he hopes to turn the video into a class project, making this a win-win for him.
“I’ll be doing something great and something I love at the same time,” he said.
This will be the second trip to New Orleans for Danielle Cohen, a senior art history major, and Michelle Denov, a sophomore studying kinesiology.
“It was a really big surprise to see how much more needed to be fixed,” said Cohen. “You would think that two and a half years after (the hurricane), it would be clean.”
“We saw a roof with no house, crazy things like that,” said Denov.
The two were assigned to help a couple in St. Bernard’s parish try to salvage what they could from their home.
“We cleaned out their garage,” said Cohen. “All their stuff was ruined. All (the wife) wanted was her wedding photo album.”
Despite all the heartbreak and tragedy they experienced, Denov and Cohen said they were grateful to have the chance to go back again.
“It’s very nice to have the victims of the hurricane act appreciative of you being there,” said Denov. “The people of New Orleans thank you personally.”
The total cost of the trip is $34,000. A grant of $10,000 has already been received from the Jewish Federation, and additional funds are being solicited from private donors, family, friends and businesses. Trip participants are also contributing.
At an orientation meeting for the trip participants on Friday, fundraising was one of the primary topics of discussion.
Taylor organized the participants into three fundraising groups. One group is focusing on corporate sponsorship, another group is focusing on campus fundraising and a third group is focusing on special events.
The organization will be selling chocolate on the grass in front of Matador Bookstore Complex on Thursday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.