Preview: Habitat for Humanity heads to the Smoky Mountains for service trip

This year, members of the Lawrence branch of Habitat for Humanity are going to Maryville, Tenn. near the Smoky Mountains over Spring Break from March 22 to March 29. There are 30 spots in the trip and some have yet to be filled.

On this trip, members of Habitat for Humanity will be working on building a new house, as well as helping with the renovation of another house. In addition to this, the group plans to hike in the Smoky Mountains, go spelunking and possibly go to the Knoxville Zoo.

In previous years, members of the Lawrence University Habitat for Humanity group have traveled to and worked in Miami, New York, New Orleans and, most recently, Guatemala.

In Guatemala, the building of the houses involved using block and cement. This year, the majority of materials used will be those found in the U.S., such as wood. The work can be challenging but most students seem to enjoy the challenge of properly building a home, as well as understanding the worldwide issue of poverty.

Secretary and Co-Trip Coordinator sophomore Jenni Sefcik describes past experience on builds: “When you do a build with them you work with the family who is going to receive that house. And hearing their stories and how grateful they are really makes you think about the overall issue of poverty.”

In Maryville, 15 percent of the population was recorded as being below the poverty line in 2009. 56.9 percent of the families classified as “poor” consist of a female with no partner, while 30.5 percent consist of a family with a married couple. 13 percent are a male with no partner present. The majority of residents of Maryville living below the poverty level are either between the ages of 16 and 24 or under 5 years of age. Those below the poverty level tend to live in buildings built before 1950. In the city of Maryville, 77.7 percent of people rent rather than own their homes.

In the face of a lack of building opportunities during the fall, Habitat focused efforts on expanding volunteerism in the community. This has included volunteering at events hosted by a local affiliate as well as working with the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

Habitat for Humanity has many of these ReStores, which are nonprofit home-improvement stores and donation centers that sell home maintenance materials and furniture at a lower cost than typical retail prices. Proceeds are used to build homes around the world.

Habitat also hosted the annual Shackathon in Fall Term. This involved several groups on campus building shacks out of recycled materials. Compared to previous years, there was a great participation turnout.

The goal of Habitat for Humanity is to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness by providing affordable, simple, decent and stable housing to low-income families who might not be able to afford it, as well as creating a sense of community and hope. Habitat meets on Mondays at 7:30 p.m. in the Kramer Room. Spots are still available for the Spring Break trip. Those interested can contact Jenni Sefcik or sophomore Mackenzie Rech.