By SHEA STASKOWSKI
Habitat for Humanity welcomed it’s second university this week for the annual Collegiate Challenge.
A group of 22 students from the Newman Catholic Center at Northwest Missouri University made the 14-hour trip over the weekend to spend their spring break building the two Habitat homes.
This is the first year for NMU to come to Starkville for their alternative spring break, and they report being overwhelmed by the hospitality they have been shown.
“I knew from the moment I talked to Peggy [Branch, Habitat office manager] that this was the place to come,” said Bridget Brown, NMU campus minister. “The hospitality they have shown us is unbelievable, and we’re just so pleased and happy to he a part of this.”
“This town has embraced us and given us everything we’ve needed,” senior Kendra Grupe added.
After the Rockford College group completed their portion of the Collegiate Challenge, the Newman Catholic Center volunteers were greeted with two framed houses, one of which had shingles and the other with no roof. After four, eight-hour days on the site, the volunteers have completed the siding on one house and are on track to finish the shingles on the second house by the time they leave today.
“It’s amazing because when we got here, it was just a frame... and now it looks like a home,” Grupe said. “We’re not the ones reaping the rewards of this home, but it’s a fantastic feeling to be here building a home for someone who needs it.”
Though Starkville Habitat has seen years of Collegiate Challenge students, Director Freddie Rasberry has been impressed with the selfless nature he has seen in the NMU volunteers.
“It’s obvious that they have prepared theologically to come down here. They embody helping your neighbor,” Rasberry said. “The group as a whole seems to be very dedicated and came with that purpose in mind. They are doing a great job.”
The NMU students have spent the week of spring break doing service projects for years, so they jumped at the chance to be a part of the Collegiate Challenge.
“It wasn’t even a choice,” Grupe said of participating in the challenge rather than going to the beach. “I’ve been given so much in life, so why not give back to a community? Plus, there are hardly any other times in your life where you’re free enough to do something like this.”
The Collegiate Challenge has a special way of bringing a group of strangers together for a common goal. And perhaps what is most impressive is that the majority of the volunteers have little to no construction experience, yet a wood frame starts to take the form of a home in a matter of days.
“The best part of this has been watching the students grow,” said Theresa Wilson, retired teacher volunteer. “Some of the students hadn’t even held a hammer before this. I’ve seen such a growth of knowledge of building in all of them.”
The Shed family will be the recipients of the one of the homes, and members of the family were on site during the week to meet the NMU students.
“It was amazing to meet the family who will live in this house,” Grupe said. “Memories are going to happen in this house... and we’re a part of building it to make that happen.”
Applications are still being accepted through the end of March for the most recently built Habitat home, which is just next door to the Shed’s home. Applications are also being accepted for the third Maroon Edition Habitat home, which will break ground this August.
For more information, call the Habitat office at 324-7008, or visit http://www.starkvillehabitat.com .