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MARDI GRAS to serve New York in trip with St. John’s

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MARDI GRAS, the service organization known for its work in New Orleans, will embark on its second trip to New York City and its first joint service trip with members of St. John’s University campus ministry during spring break.

“As the needs of the lower ninth expand and adapt, so does our organization’s need to follow suit,” said Joe Bartoletti, a sophomore in the College of Health Sciences who will be one of the leaders on the New York trip. “There are so many people applying to MARDI GRAS that we saw this as a really cool way to expand.”

MARDI GRAS, one of Marquette’s largest student organizations, was founded in 2006 to help clear houses that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in the lower ninth ward of  New Orleans, and the group has returned to the area every year since. This spring MARDI GRAS will expand its efforts to help rebuild areas that were damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. They will specifically focus on Rockaway, Queens, which was heavily damaged by fire and floodwaters during the storm.

“Hurricane Sandy actually did more monetary damage than Hurricane Katrina,” said MARDI GRAS President Jac Cupkovic, a senior in the College of Business Administration. “There’s still houses that need to be dug out with sand, and there’s similar work to be done there to what we already do. So we figured we have the leadership in this organization. We have enough people who can lead trips and we have enough people interested in taking these trips, why not expand to a different location?”

Although it is expanding, MARDI GRAS still faces questions about funding. In the past, it relied heavily on allocations from Marquette Student Government’s Student Organization Funding Committee, but was denied funding for its winter break trip in October.

MUSG representatives from the SOF Committee cited MARDI GRAS’ substantial past allocations as one of the reasons for their decision. Since 2010, MARDI GRAS accounted for more than 11 percent of all budgeted non-club SOF funds, according to MUSG. MUSG also had concerns over MARDI GRAS’ limited self-funding efforts.

In response to MUSG’s most recent financial decision, MARDI GRAS formed a fundraising committee to organize smaller events to help offset some of its costs. MARDI GRAS does most of its fundraising as a whole rather than for specific trips, Cupkovic said. A lot of its fundraising takes place during Spark Week, the fundraising week after spring break. The group also collects alumni donations. Cupkovic said most of the organization’s funding comes in the form of supplies for its work.

Cupkovic said if the group gets no SOF support for this trip, the cost would be around $200 per student, on the low end.

The New York trip will also allow MARDI GRAS members the opportunity to attend the Big East Career Fair, an annual event at Madison Square Garden that coincides with the Big East Men’s Basketball Tournament. The fair is exclusive to students from Big East affiliate schools.

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