MOVE spring break service trips signal post-pandemic ministry rebound

Communities in New Orleans, Hartford and Long Island welcome back much-appreciated Saint Michael's volunteers

March 22, 2023
big group

The large image behind the headline shows the large group attending a pre-trip dinner for all the volunteers of this year’s extended MOVE service trips.

With student volunteer numbers finally inching back toward pre-pandemic level in MOVE — the community service arm of Edmundite Campus Ministry on the Saint Michael’s campus — three groups returned last weekend from extended spring break service trips to New Orleans, Long Island and Hartford, CT.

MOVE Director Lara Scott is pleased with the growth in participation this year. Recently she shared with Campus Ministry Director Fr. Brian Cummings, S.S.E. ’86, some encouraging data: “For the 2022-2023 academic year through mid-March, we’ve seen 174 unique volunteers and 11,724.75 hours of service compared to 2021-2022 where we ended the academic year with 158 unique volunteers and 10,337 service hours,” Scott said.

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Lara Scott

This year’s three extended spring break service sites all have been destinations for Saint Michael’s MOVE groups in past years.

The Long Island volunteers drive together in a van from Vermont to work with a recovery center (drug use or mental health needs) called Hope House Ministries. Hartford volunteers also drive down and work in three soup kitchens, food shelters, food pantries and an after school program (playing games (basketball, sports) and doing activities (arts and crafts) with youth. They stay at Holy Family Retreat Center and work at the House of Bread, St. Elizabeth’s House, ImmaCare and the Alfred E. Burr Community School. New Orleans volunteers fly down, stay at Peace Lutheran Church and serve at Habitat for Humanity New Orleans Missions.

Leading this year’s New Orleans trip were student leader Lesley Rivera ‘25 and professional leader Anthony Bassignani ’13 of the Durick Library staff. Guiding the group at Hope House on Long Island were student leader Emma Gooley ’24 and professional leader Gary Baker of Facilities. In charge for the Hartford group were student leader Lauren Best ’24 and professional leader Vicky Castillo ’20, MOVE assistant director.

 Organizing a Hartford food pantry


The Hartford crew, at work in a food shelf kitchen here, included student leader Lauren Best ’24, far right, and staff leader Vicky Castillo ’20, kneeling right.

The Hartford group’s student leader Best, a secondary education and English major with creative writing and philosophy/ethics minors from Nottingham, NH, said she strongly believes that every student at Saint Michael’s should go on a service trip by the time they graduate.

“Going on a MOVE service trip is a great way to engage with people within the Saint Michael’s community while exploring a new place and making a larger societal impact,” she said. “Service trips encourage social justice and change through action.  As the student leader of the Hartford, Connecticut service trip this year, Best said, “I thoroughly enjoyed engaging in the planning process and seeing the vision come to fruition. My favorite part of the service trip was organizing the food pantry at Saint Elizabeth’s House.”


Organizing this food pantry really helped in Hartford.

She observed that often volunteers want to be serving food to clients, but “in actuality, organizing the pantry helped the employees who worked there tackle a task that would have taken days to complete in a shorter amount of time so they could better focus their energy in other areas.”

“Volunteering can help the program employees take something off of their already busy plate,” Best said. “As a future educator, I believe that planning service trips has given me a foundation to be an effective and global teacher. MOVE service trips are a great way to meet new people, make an impact, and explore a new place.” Joining her and Castillo in Hartford were students Kylee Legg ’25, Eliza Goldsworthy ‘26, Theresa Carbonneau ’26 and Emily Huebel ‘26.

Renovating a home, serving meals in New Orleans


Hammering away at renovations in New Orleans.

Lesley Rivera, student leader for the New Orleans trip, is a political science and biology double major and the Student Government secretary of student policy. Originally from Santa Ana, CA, she also is a JUNTOS student leader for this group that works to empower Latinx students and families around education. Juntos means “together” in Spanish. In addition, Rivera is a student outreach workers for MOVE, a service trip committee leader, and Admission Tour Guide apprentice and an intern at Emerge Vermont, a statewide group that recruits, trains, and provides a supportive network to Democratic women who want to run for office.

She said she was most impressed by “the amazing community that is fostered at New Orleans Mission and Habitat for Humanity — the two main locations we volunteered at.”

“Going on this trip really shows you how it takes hard-working, honest, charismatic people to really make a family,” Rivera said. “I had a pleasure of meeting this community and the regular volunteers who kept giving back to the community they came from. We helped feed the homeless, and impoverished population in New Orleans and we got to listen to various types of stories that many of us don’t experience”

However, Rivera said, “we also learned how important it is to care for one another and treat each other with kindness. I believe that in our society we tend to exclude those who are marginalized, and by us doing so, we render no hope. These organizations where we volunteered  help change that mindset. It is all about seeing individuals who need help and extending that hand to support them … I hope to continue to do amazing work like this in my political career to further advocate for change.” Other students serving in New Orleans with Rivera were Elise Holway ’26, Porsha Reynolds ’23, Rada Ruggles ’23 and Christine Dossou ’25.

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A St. Mike’s umbrella made distribution of good easier one day.

New Orleans staff leader Anthony Bassignani said this was his third MOVE service trip. “Previously I went on a faculty/staff trip to Kanab, Utah where we volunteered with the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, and last year I served as the staff leader for the Hartford, CT trip. Acting as the staff leader for the New Orleans trip this year was my first time returning to NOLA since 2009,” he said.

Over the course of the week the group worked with Habitat for Humanity to renovate a home which had been sitting unoccupied for four years and been damaged by termites. “The students and I worked to take out the fixtures inside the house, reinforce the supports holding up the house, and laying down a new sub-floor,” he said.


Staff leader Anthony Bassignani ’13 at work on renovations.

“In the afternoons we volunteered at the New Orleans Mission, a Christian Humanitarian Organization “dedicated to the rescue, recovery, re-engagement” of people facing homelessness, addiction, abuse, and mental illness.”

“Some of our work with New Orleans Mission involved brown-bag and grocery outreach, beautification projects, and helping to serve meals at their main location in downtown New Orleans. The group’s favorite part was working with Daniel Watts on the outreach ministry.”

Assisting with social programs
at Hope House on Long Island

MOVE leaders say the trip to work at Hope House in Port Jefferson, Long Island, NY,  offers “a place for the ministry and service of presence with additional opportunities to assist in social programs.”

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The Long Island crew.

This experience is recommended for students who major in psychology, sociology or education, but is open to everyone. Hope house specifically commits to young people and families in crisis, pregnant women and mothers and babies in crisis, and other too-often neglected populations.

Students working along the previously named leaders on Long Island were Abigail Guillemette ’26, Janie Marek ’25, Teagan McCaffrey ’24 and Patrick Manson ’26. In recent years, the volunteers have been hosted for a gathering by Katherine Hackett ’11, a veteran of MOVE trips as a student and staff member when she previously worked at St. Mike’s before moving home to Long Island.

This year’s winter break service trips were to Immokalee, FL, and Buffalo, NY, also sites where Saint Michael’s MOVE volunteers have served for many years performing a variety of good works.

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Katherine Hackett ’11, MOVE service veteran of note, second from right, hosts at her Long Island home.

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