Lawrence students help build first Habitat for Humanity home in Appleton

Katy Hillbo

Think of home. It’s something different for everybody. For some, home may be a parent’s house; for others, a dorm or apartment. Some people own a house, while others consider a friend’s couch to be home. Home is a place where you belong.It is a place where you can go to rest, and a place that can shelter you from the dangers of the outside world. More than just walls and a roof, a home is a place where you are always welcome.

Those who are living without the comfort of a home know this all too well. For them, life carries many uncertainties. They have to live from day to day without the reassurance that there is a place where they can go every night.

Members of the Lawrence University chapter of Habitat for Humanity and other volunteers from Lawrence are working to change this for a local family. After almost six years of fundraising, the Lawrence chapter of Habitat for Humanity has finally met their goal of $20,000.

In order to earn funds, the group hosts several fundraisers each year. The most popular and “biggest fundraiser is the Shack-a-Thon,” said senior Teresa Hardison, education officer for Habitat.

The Shack-a-Thon is an annual fundraiser in which on-campus groups compete to see who can build the “best shack.” The groups then test their creations by roughing it in them for one night.

A cross between “Design on a Dime” and “Survivor,” the Shack-a-Thon raises approximately $4,000 a year. With the funds that they have raised and the help of a $40,000 youth-leadership grant from the J.T. Keller Company, Habitat is starting work on the first ever Lawrence-sponsored Habitat house.

According to the official Web site, Habitat for Humanity “seeks to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world, and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action.”

Volunteers around the world build and rehabilitate “simple, decent houses with the help of the homeowner families.” The Lawrence-sponsored house is going to a local family, consisting of a mother, a father and three children. As part of the rules for owning a Habitat home, the family has to be involved in the project.

The family is required to “put in ‘sweat equity'” on the house, said junior Kristin Morgan, president of the Lawrence chapter of Habitat.

The family’s involvement means that family members must do a certain amount of construction with the volunteers. They are also required to attend “classes, and show that they are making efforts to work out their financial difficulties,” said Morgan.

The family has had help from many diverse groups of volunteers. Along with individual volunteers, there have been many different organizations that have put in time to construct the house.

The men’s basketball team, Phi Kappa Tau, Kappa Alpha Theta, the Lawrence Christian Fellowship, a group from Information Technology Services, Lawrence International, Delta Gamma, Kappa Kappa Gamma, and Hillel were some of the groups that Morgan could recall. However, they are always looking for more people who would like to help.

“There is a sign up in Downer with available dates and descriptions [of the kind of work they’ll be doing],” said Hardison. “Or you can email any of the board members.”
There are several days that people can volunteer, but they especially encourage people to sign up to work on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Hardison said that they appreciate any time people can spare, and that people are encouraged to come “anytime [you] are available, even if you just come once.”

“No experience is necessary, and Habitat for Humanity is providing transportation for people who need rides,” said Morgan.

Whatever home is, it is more than just a building. For Habitat for Humanity volunteers, it is both a way to change the world and communicate a message.

For Morgan, the house will not only provide “a place for the children to study after school, a place where the parents can know that their children are safe, [and] a means to improve living conditions and health,” but also a way to send a message to the Appleton community.

“Since the Appleton community hosts Lawrence students every school year,” said Morgan, “it is a way to say ‘thank you.’