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The Blue & Gray Press | February 20, 2018

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Students 'Bring Down the House' In Habitat for Humanity Effort

Students 'Bring Down the House' In Habitat for Humanity Effort

By NIA BENTALL

The first annual variety show “Bringin’ Down the House or Buildin’ it Back Up” sponsored by Community Outreach and Resources (COAR) will be held Saturday, Mar. 24 at 2 p.m. in Dodd Auditorium.

The performance will feature the University of Mary Washington performers such as Eagle Bhangra, One Note Stand, Alter Egos, Symfonics, Bell A’ Cappella, Breakers and Invoice. The show is free to students, but donations are welcome to help fund the Alternative Spring Break program through Habitat for Humanity.

With the Alternative Spring Break program, 45 UMW students built houses for those in need of shelter in locations across the U.S. this past spring break.

COAR facilitated the trip with Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge Program, which allows groups of five or more to travel to ongoing housing projects and help build.

A group led by senior and COAR staff member Victoria Hudspeth traveled to Cookeville, Tenn. over spring break, a town recently devastated by tornados.

“Our situation was different this year because tornadoes hit the area the day before we arrived,” said Hudspeth. “We were fortunate enough to go to a site where the tornado had hit to help clean up. We worked with the Overton County community clearing house debris and fallen trees. It was a very humbling and surreal experience.”

Hudspeth, who has volunteered on four alternative break programs with Habitat for Humanity, said helping with the tornado relief was the highlight of her experience.

“So many of the residents were left with nothing, but the entire community was involved in the cleanup efforts,” said Hudspeth.

She also added “why spend a week at a beach when you can help transform someone’s life?”

Another group traveled to Wilmington, N.C. and had a more traditional Habitat for Humanity alternative spring break experience.

The group helped put up vinyl siding, shingles on the roof, and worked on the electrical wiring and plumbing. Additionally, they helped install a heating and air conditioning unit.

“We work alongside volunteers from the affiliate – usually retired men – and learned various construction skills. They are very patient and helpful in teaching us and are very forgiving of our mistakes,” said Christina Eggenberger, director of COAR.

Eggenberger, for whom alternative spring break is a favorite week of the year said, “I think it’s always [nice] seeing how much fun UMW students have learning skills but also helping a family realize their dream of home ownership. At the beginning of the week they don’t even know how to hold a hammer but by the end they are pros.”

Bobby Tillett, the leader of the group that went to Avery County, N.C., said he had done some work at home, but learned a lot from the experience.

“The beauty of working with Habitat is that you can have no construction experience whatsoever, but there are plenty of people there to teach you and give you direction,” Tillett said. “Each day you come away having learned something new.”

The Habitat for Humanity contract with homeowners stipulates that homeowners are required to help build their house, and the group on Wilmington trip was able to meet the homeowner, known as “Ms. Brenda.”

Trinity Smyth, a freshman on the Wilmington trip, said, “We went to the worksite one morning and [“Ms. Brenda”] had bought us Dunkin Donuts and coffee. She was really friendly and wanted to know where everyone was from, and gave us all hugs and said thank you. It was great to be able to see who was going to live in the house.”

The group that went to Avery Country was able to meet Habitat for Humanity home recipients that lived near by.

“One very nice woman, named Lisa, and her granddaughter made us peanut-butter cookies and brought them to the work site. She thanked us for the work we were doing and said that if it wasn’t for Habitat and volunteers like us she wouldn’t have the home she lives in today. It was very touching and really put the week into perspective,” said Tillett.

The students on the trip also have the opportunity to bond with each other and have fun in the community they are staying in.

Cheyanna Early, the COAR leader for Habitat for Humanity on campus, was the leader for the Wilmington trip.

Early said her typical day consisted of “getting to the site by 8:00 a.m. and starting working [sic] on roofing, electrical, plumbing, and siding. We left the site around 2:30 p.m. and were free to go to the beach, walk downtown, or just rest in the facility we were staying in.”

Of the Avery County trip, Tillett stated, “After dinner we would play games, watch movies, listen to music, and always before we went to bed, we sat at a big table and everyone would recap their days,” adding that, “We all meshed so well and had so much fun together…there were plenty of tears when we all had to say goodbye.”