BILOXI, MS—What was intended to be a week devoted to charitable activities in a region still recovering from Hurricane Katrina quickly spiraled into a conventional, alcohol-fueled spring break this weekend, community sources reported.
Housing construction and cleanup projects were marred by dozens of arrests for public intoxication and disorderly conduct, as well as widespread reports of public urination and indecent exposure.
"Alternative spring break rules!" said Michigan State University sophomore Nate Sherman, part of a student group who traveled to Waveland, MS to help a local family rebuild its three-bedroom home. "[Nick] Torcello made this wicked beer bong out of some flexible ducting and a paint can, then we had a caulk fight and took bets on who could punch the biggest hole in the drywall with his head. We didn't get back to the work site until, like, 2:30 the next afternoon."
Incidents involving the misuse of tools and building materials occurred at almost every site, with local outpatient clinics reporting a handful of injuries resulting from an impromptu drinking game dubbed "Hammer Toss." Also, at least five virginities were believed lost in the claw shovel of a front loader at one Kiln, MS construction site.
Rebuilding is now even further behind schedule, with some houses requiring extensive repainting after being covered in volunteers' school colors and slogans.
"It's demanding work for the first day, but then it gets a lot easier, and you feel good knowing it's all for charity," University of Miami senior Jeff Talbert said. "Some of us could use some charity too, like maybe some charity ass for li'l [Peter] Merv[is] tonight. That guy so needs to get laid."
Although they expressed gratitude for the well-intentioned aid, hurricane victims said they were concerned that some of the newly constructed homes deviated from the original plans.
"We owe a debt to these students for providing my family with a home, but I was expecting glass in the windows and a ground floor," said Mavis Riggs, whose original house was completely destroyed. "Converting the new septic tank into a hot tub was inventive, but we really won't get a lot of use out of it. Or the barbecue pit, which I think was meant to form part of the foundation."
"Right now there's a drunk boy sitting on my uninstalled toilet, crying," Riggs continued. "Should someone check on him?"
At least three families will not be receiving the new homes promised to them, because necessary building materials were lost in a celebratory bonfire.
All local charity contacted for this article said they suffered significant setbacks and losses after receiving alternative spring break assistance. A nearby battered women's shelter had to cancel plans for a potluck dinner and spring cleaning after four University of North Carolina freshmen were hospitalized for alcohol poisoning, and two vans owned by a homeless outreach organization have been missing since Friday when their volunteer drivers reportedly set out for a beer run.
Though Loyola Marymount University film major Marcus Leach initially expressed reluctance about going on a public service–oriented mid-semester break, he now characterizes it as "completely rewarding." "I'm definitely coming back next year and bringing Trent and Dan-O and the Maxi-Pad with," Leach said. "We really accomplished a lot. It was a total rager."
For Gulf residents still picking up the pieces 18 months after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, volunteer efforts like these are starting to become a tradition.
"It's a nice gesture for these kids to come here and help, but it seems like every year they wreck what's left of the downtown area with their fighting and wet T-shirt contests," Biloxi diner owner Marsh Ridley said. "It takes a solid week just to clean up after all their charity work."