UM Students Gain Valuable Volunteer Experience in Hollywood

February 03, 2016

UM students (left to right) Jennifer Sprague, Samantha Twedt, Wendy Gregory, Krystin Blackbird and Janette Chacon sort through donated food and stack it in boxes at the LA Food Bank during the alternative winter break trip. The students sorted and stacked 22,000 pounds of food that day at the food bank. MISSOULA – Early in January, the University of Montana’s Office for Civic Engagement and the Volunteers in Action student group coordinated an alternative winter break trip to Hollywood to work with a local nonprofit that focuses on hunger and homelessness. The trip took place from Jan. 9-17 and included a two-credit seminar class.

While in Hollywood, 11 UM students worked with the Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection program, which provides service, learning and leadership-development opportunities within urban environments.

The Hollywood branch of DOOR concentrates on children’s advocacy, HIV/AIDS and chronic homelessness, poverty, hunger and education achievement gaps. Students worked at different sites, including food pantries, resource centers, soup kitchens and homeless shelters. They also had free time to explore the more glamorous side of Hollywood, which exposed many students to the striking contrasts between poverty and prosperity. 

“Through long days of volunteering, listening to stories from troubled pasts and walking down streets full of the rich and very poor, our minds constantly were tested to think differently,” one student said.  

 “I was challenged to work and strengthen my empathy muscles and develop compassion for others I don’t know who may need help,” another volunteer said.

UM’s Alternative Breaks program allows college students to gain experience in community service while learning about topics ranging from literacy to the environment. Students often are exposed to social problems in communities they have never encountered.

UM offers Alternative Breaks biannually, during the winter and spring breaks. Previously, UM students have traveled to Arches National Park in Utah to restore native vegetation and to San Diego to help with early childhood education programs.

The 2016 Alternative Breaks experiences generously have been supported by the Dairy Farmers of America. 

For more information about the next Alternative Breaks trip, which will focus on environmental restoration in Moab, Utah, visit UM’s OCE office in the Davidson Honors College Room 015, or email OCE Alternative Breaks Coordinator Kellie Hofstetter at


Contact: Kellie Hofstetter, UM Office for Civic Engagement alternative breaks coordinator, 406-243-5531,