Spring break has begun at many colleges, and for some students, the Sandy-damaged beaches of New Jersey are more attractive than the ones that typically draw party crowds in Florida and Mexico.
A dozen students from Austin Peay University in Clarksville, Tenn. arrived in Sea Bright, N.J. this week to help shovel sand on public medians and scrape tile floors at a marina.
"I can always party," said Lisa Witten, 23, a senior from Nashville. "This is really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity here."
The organizer of the effort is Jennifer Freeland, a 22-year-old sophomore from Camden, Tenn. Her mom had sent her to Venezuela and Honduras when she was younger, and she says now "volunteering is something that's really big for us."
It's not, however, part of Joseph Degon's background. The 21-year-old junior from Clarksville said his friends are partying at a rented cabin in Gatlinburg.
"I just decided to branch out of my comfort zone," Degon said.
Part of their work at the privately owned Angler's Marina was to scrape tiles off the showroom floor and sweep sand out of a storage building that looked as if it hadn't been touched since the storm came ashore back in October.
"We had no flood insurance," said the marina's Liz Leonardis.
She said the effort could speed up the reopening by as much as two months, to as early as April.
Sea Bright volunteer coordinator Frank Lawrence said more students will come into town in coming weeks from Drexel, Rutgers, Lehigh and possibly New Jersey Institute of Technology, while other schools are expected to send kids to other Jersey Shore communities.
But for all the college students partying on much warmer beaches, Mercedes Cassity, a 19-year-old freshman from Fort Campbell, said, "I'm completely cool being right here."