- Associated Press - Sunday, April 8, 2018

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) - Drake Dorbeck, Paxton Schrimsher and Cody Block have been teammates and roommates for years.

Each March since joining the Southern Miss football team, the trio has reserved the week of spring break for just that - a break from the stress of school and the rigors of college athletics. Two years ago, they cooled their heels at Orange Beach, Alabama. Last year, they spent several days relaxing in the Smoky Mountains.

So when the time came to settle on a destination for 2018, Dorbeck had an idea.

“My sister had contacted me about going on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic with some people back home,” said the Vicksburg native, who started 10 games for the Golden Eagles as a redshirt sophomore last season. “It ended up falling through. So we were sitting at the house one night and I said, ‘What if we got something together (ourselves)?’”

That’s when Block, who spent 2015-17 as a long snapper at Southern Miss, connected the dots. Born and raised in Glendale, Arizona, Block grew up about 150 miles from the Mexican border and has been a part of multiple trips to poverty-stricken portions of Puerto Peñasco.

“As soon as Cody brought up Mexico, instantly we were like, ‘Yeah, we’re in. Let’s do it,’” Dorbeck said.

Coordinated by 1MISSION (a Phoenix-based community development organization), Dorbeck, Schrimsher and Block spent four days in March in an underdeveloped section of the Mexican fishing and resort town building a house for a family of four that had been living in a camping tent.

Along with several other volunteers, the Golden Eagles poured concrete, framed the roof, put up the walls and applied stucco. The result was a 24-feet-by-12-feet, one-room structure for the family that included a 3-year old girl and 14-year-old boy.

“The house is something we, in America, would classify as a type of shed,” said Block, who is interning with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Venture Church. “We’d put a lawnmower or tools in it. But for them, they can stay there and be protected from the elements. What we call a shed, they cry over and are extremely thankful for.”

“We did everything by hand - no power tools were used - to show the people it can be done,” Dorbeck said.

Schrimsher, a former Athens, Alabama, star who started four games as a redshirt sophomore in 2017, called the experience humbling and life-changing.

“Literally, as soon as we crossed the border, it was immediate Third World,” he said. “You see it in movies all the time and you just think, ‘Maybe it’s only certain parts.’ No, no, no. It was literally everywhere. And it was immediate Third World. People basically living in cardboard homes.”

Schrimsher said if families weren’t living in tents, they found shelter in rundown structures and did what needed to be done to protect themselves.

“The family we served in particular was living in a tent,” he said. “But we drove by a house that was using a big cardboard movie advertisement from an IMAX theater as one of their walls. Some had pallets leaned up on their side to make a wall. They just pick up scraps along the way.”

Dorbeck, Schrimsher and Block classify themselves as forever changed from the experience and already have plans in the works to return.

“The fact that I’ve ever complained about anything in my whole entire life literally breaks my heart,” Schrimsher said. “The family cried when we gave them the key to their house. And it’s not just like a family here or a family there (that live in such conditions). It’s 80 or 90 percent of the population down there.

“It was just very humbling and very eye-opening.”


Information from: The Hattiesburg American, http://www.hattiesburgamerican.com

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