Feb. 14

Shunning Partying to Volunteer, This Couple Fell in Love With Service and Each Other


Love can come from some pretty unlikely places. For Laura and Michael Magevney that place was volunteering on alternative break trips during their time together at Vanderbilt University.

Laura and Michael Magevney

Many years – and four kids – later, the Magevneys are the winners of Points of Light’s first Love & Service Valentine’s Day contest, for which we scoured the globe looking for couples who met through volunteering. Randomly selected from a large group of couples who sent us their heartwarming stories, Laura and Michael will have Valentine’s Day dinner on us.

For the Magevneys, their love story was all about service. During their sophomore year of college in 1987, they took separate alternative breaks to help communities in Tennessee and West Virginia. At the time, alternative spring breaks – during which students forgo spring break partying trips to volunteer – were just getting started at many campuses around the country.   

“We did home repairs, and in West Virginia we converted an old school into a community center,” says Michael. “It’s a great experience and a springboard for service and to be active citizens.”  

By the time they were seniors, Laura and Michael were co-chairing Vanderbilt’s alternative break program, and had begun dating. They started advising other universities on how to create their own alternative break programs, and when they graduated, Laura and Michael took their commitment to service – and their relationship – to another level.

In 1991, Laura and Michael founded Break Away, which helps create alternative break programs and offers training and a database to connect programs and communities in need. Break Away now partners with 153 college campus alternative break programs and has a database of more than 450 organizations and community partners who wish to host alternative break groups.

And while they were growing their nonprofit, the Magevneys were also growing their family. A year after starting Break Away, Laura and Michael were married and today have four children, ages 17, 16, 12 and 6.

While the Magevneys are no longer directly involved with the day-to-day operations of Break Away, both continue to perform volunteer work in their local communities and Michael sits on the advisory board of Break Away. This summer their commitment to volunteerism and active citizenship lives on, as Laura will take their two oldest children on a service trip to Cuba.

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