May 29, 2022

Christina Eggenberger: At Your Service

Christina Eggenberger puts these items on her list of Spring Break travel must-haves: A tool belt and work gloves.

The university’s director of service is spending her week with a group of students in Tucker, Georgia, an old railroad town just outside Atlanta with a population of less than 2,000. While others dip their toes in tropical waters, explore a European city or just sleep in, these students are working eight hours a day on a house for Habitat for Humanity.

For more than two decades, UMW students have taken part in Alternative Service Breaks, a civic engagement opportunity offered by the Center for Honor, Leadership and Service.

Eggenberger arrived here 11 years ago, drawn by the university’s small size, its absence of Greek life and the uniqueness of the service position.

Q: How did you become interested in service work?
A: My dad reminded me the other day that in second grade I organized a playground clean-up for Earth Day. So that shows I’ve always been service-minded.

Q: What’s your favorite part about Alternative Service Breaks?
A: I get to be out of the office for a week and go out and get my hands dirty. I also get to learn new things. Last year, I learned how to tile a bathroom floor.

Q: What are the trips like?
A: Students immerse themselves in the experience. They don’t have to go to class or do homework. It’s getting up and building, 9 to 5. It’s a lot of group togetherness. You make friends quick. We clean up, make dinner and play games at night.

Q: Do you have a favorite project?
A: Whenever you have the chance to frame the entire house. When you walk up, it’s a concrete slab. When you leave, you see the shape of the house. You get a sense that someone is going to live in the house and make a life there. That’s always impactful.

Q: Any touching stories?
A: A lady who was going to live in a house we were working on brought us lunch. She was very grateful for our help. Usually, we don’t get a chance to meet the homeowners. When we do, it’s a bonus.

Q: How willing are UMW students to give up their own time for Alternative Service Breaks?
A: We always fill the trips. The cost of the trip – $250 – is sometimes a barrier. We do offer first-time participants a $100 scholarship.

Q: Are there any mantras you tell yourself every day?
A: Small things can make a big impact on people’s lives.