A tradition now in its 25thyear at Westminster, the annual Habitat for Humanity build with partner schools Pace, Marist, and Woodward is now underway.Beginning on Sept. 10, seven Westminster students as well as two faculty members joined in as they helped to construct a house for an underprivileged family.Each school involved commits to bringing students and faculty to work alongside Habitat volunteers to build the house over the course of seven Saturdays, in addition to a final dedication ceremony. In order to fulfill Habitat for Humanity’s policy of “sweat equity,” the homeowner will build alongside these students and volunteers.
Many faculty and students have previously participated in Habitat builds,such as upper school service coordinator Meghan James.
“I’m new in this position, but I have participated in Habitat builds seven times over the past ten years that I’ve been here,” said James. “I plan on building this year on Oct. 8. I think it’s a very satisfying and rewarding experience, and you get to use some skills you don’t ordinarily use in your regular everyday job experience.”
Other leaders of service in the Upper School also have a tradition of contributing.
“I have been participating for the last two or three years,” said Callie Crabb, director of the Glenn Institute for Service Learning. “Every year I come on the celebration day, which is the last day of the build where we put in all the landscaping.
”The volunteer team traveled to the building sight on Sept. 10 to begin work on the house. These students had various reasons for deciding to sign up for the build.
“I’m on the Service Corps, and so I’m trying to get involved with community service as much I can,” said junior Christopher Block. “I was motivated to sign up, and it was a lot of fun. I wish I could signup for more [builds].
”Many students remember collecting money to fund the build in the Lower and Middle Schools. Fundraisers include Penny Drive, which includes collecting coins to support Habitat for Humanity.
“I’ve known about [Habitat] since fourth grade, so I decided that because I’m 16 now I’d go ahead and actually commit to doing the work,” said junior Riley Payne. “We started with just the foundation and we made it with all the interior and outside walls. It was overall a great day of work.
”While for some the Habitat build was a new challenge, others had previous experience.
“I did a couple of builds over the summer near my house in Mableton, so it’s always been in the back of my mind,” said senior Tyler Logie. “I wanted to do some service, and it seemed like a pretty enjoyable thing. You get to actually meet the people you’re building the house for, so it’s a rewarding experience.
”Much of the previous experience came from returning faculty members, such as math teacher Kevin Mylod.
“I’ve been signing up for this particular day for the last ten years. I love this day because you see so much progress,” said Mylod.
“We literally go from cinder-blocks to laying the entire main floor and all the exterior and interior walls, plus the entire front porch. It really looks like a house at the end of only one day.
“Students were assigned to different roles on teams when they began work on the house.
“I personally helped with laying the deck,” said junior Jay Granade. “I was working with one of the adult volunteers, and we would cut the lumber and hand it up to the people on the deck. They would then screw it in and once they were done with that we would help put the roof on.
”The building is very strenuous, requiring dedication and long hours.
“I was with a group of six people, and we helped nailing down floorboards and putting in insulation,” said Block. “We got all four walls up, and then we put in the porch.
”The experience of not only contributing to community service but also getting to meet with people benefiting from your work is a part of what makes a Habitat build so special to its volunteers.
“The homeowner’s name is Christina, and we also met her daughter Jamilia,” said Mylod. “They were working right along with us – putting in floorboards, hammering nails into the walls, and they loved every minute of it.
“The homeowner is always involved in the progress of building, working alongside volunteers each day.
“It’s always nice meeting the people, but getting to know this homeowner in particular was great,” said Logie. “Every five minutes, she would stop to thank everyone again and again. It was really a special experience.”
The personal relationships make the building even more meaningful to everyone involved, often acting as the best part of the entire project.
“My favorite part of the experience was getting to know [Christina] and hear a little bit of her story,” said Mylod. “It’s amazing to see the pride that she feels as a first-time homeowner.”
Since the age minimum to work on a Habitat build is 16 years and older, the Service Corps looked for ways to get younger students involved who cannot participate in the build. Students in the Lower and Middle Schools fill up boxes with coins to help fund-raise for the build. During homecoming week, the proceeds from Penny Wars go toward Habitat for Humanity. The Service Corps also helped more students get involved by hosting a book drive to buy books for the family.
“This year, they have a need for books and bookshelves for their house, so we’re partnering with the freshmen class to do a book drive,” said Crabb. “We’re seeing if the STEAM class in the Middle School would be interested in building bookshelves for the house.”
The build will continue until Oct. 29 when a special ceremony is completed to give the key to the homeowner.