Ole Spring Relief to celebrate 15 year anniversary

With its annual spring break service trip, Ole Spring Relief (OSR) is slated to celebrate its 15 year anniversary by assisting with ongoing clean up from Hurricane Harvey in Houston. 

OSR’s founding trip was to New Orleans in 2005 in response to Hurricane Katrina. The organization has since traveled to many areas of the country for disaster relief, including Boulder, Colo. and Mobile, Ala. The group traveled to Houston last year following Hurricane Harvey, which hit the southeastern United States in Aug. 2017. 

OSR currently has two co-coordinators, Ty Coutermash ’22 and Maya Starr ’21, along with a larger group of committee members. 

According to Coutermash, OSR is “not only a service trip for Oles, but also community building with the community you’re stationed in, as well as with your fellow Oles.” 

“It’s a traditional mission trip without the mission, instead, being service-oriented,” Coutermash said. 

On their Facebook, OSR describes itself as being a secular service organization that is only affiliated with the college by name, and does not represent the College’s values or beliefs. 

“Ole Spring Relief is incredibly special,” Starr said when asked for comment on OSR’s impact on the St. Olaf community. “Not only does it connect Oles to real-world problems many individuals face (effects of climate change, natural disasters, displacement, communities being destroyed), it gives us the opportunity to connect with such people.” 

Additionally, OSR is well-known around campus as a relatively inexpensive alternative to spring break, and the group maintains a history of finding ways for everyone to attend the program, regardless of income.

Since OSR is entirely student-run, the make-up of the organization has changed every year, which Coutermash said has led to some organizational issues in the past. He and Starr have been working to counteract these struggles through an even division of labor between the co-coordinators and the committee, as well as a rebranding of the organization through social media and fundraising, Coutermash said. 

Past Co-Coordinator Lisa Kibler ’18, born Lisa Ranft, could not be reached for comment. 

Ole Spring Relief is heading to Houston, Texas during planned spring break (March 21-March 28), and applications have been extended until March 12.