By ANGIE CARNATHAN
The Starkville Habitat for Humanity, in conjunction with Mississippi State University, broke ground on Monday for the third Maroon Edition house. The ceremony was held at 70 Murdock St. in Starkville, the site of the new house.
This year’s recipient, Kimberly Riley, was there with her three children: daughter Damyia Riley, 10, and six-year-old twins Jermeria and Jejuan Davis. Family members said they are very happy to be given this opportunity.
“I’m very excited,” Riley said. “I always wanted my own house for (my children) as they were growing up, and it’s finally happening. It’s great.”
Mayor Parker Wiseman was on hand to help with the first turn of dirt, and he praised the efforts of both groups.
“This is a wonderful program, and we sure appreciate the university taking an interest in a community program that is allowing individuals in our community to achieve the dream of home ownership,” Wiseman said.
MSU President Mark Keenum spoke at the ceremony and said Habitat for Humanity and the Maroon Edition house are both important and valued programs that benefit everyone involved.
“It is very heartwarming and fulfilling as a program to know you’re making a huge difference and a huge impact on the lives of a family, and a community,” he said. “To have this home in this nice neighborhood where the children can ride their bicycles and play and just have a nice childhood, it’s exciting to be a part of that.”
This is the third year MSU has worked with Habitat for Humanity on Maroon Edition homes. The partnership began in 2009.
“Our students, faculty, staff and, yes, even administrators donated over 10,000 volunteer hours on the previous two Maroon Edition homes, and I’m very confident that we’ll have over 5,000 hours devoted to this home,” Keenum said. “That’s important, because that’s what our university is about: trying to instill the importance of service to our students.”
In fact, Keenum pointed out MSU has received high praise for its involvement in community service projects, including its participation with Habitat for Humanity.
“The Carnegie Foundation has recognized us with the highest award possible for our community engagement, and this is also the third year in a row that we’re on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll,” he said. “That speaks volumes for our university and I’m very proud of that fact.”
The Maroon Edition house is not the only thing Keenum and Riley have in common. At one point he addressed Riley, saying, “I know you all are getting ready for school yourself; you’ve got twins, six years old, first grade, that’s a big, big deal. Let me tell you, I’ve got three six year olds getting ready for first grade, and a five year old getting ready for kindergarten, so I can relate a little bit.”
Zaxby’s provided milkshakes and cookies to the crowd after the ceremony. Scott Alexander, owner of the Starkville Zaxby’s, said they were happy to be helping out in whatever way they could.
“Jimmy Joe Buckley is the electrician for these houses and his wife, Lorinda, is the general manager at Zaxby’s,” Alexander said. “We thought it’d be a good idea for us to come out and contribute in some small way to all the hard work that these volunteers put in.”
Habitat for Humanity President Allan Tucker, who has been involved with the Starkville Habitat chapter for eight years, said he is delighted with all the help they’ve received from MSU and hopes the relationship the two organizations have built will last for years to come. He encourages anyone interested in volunteering to help with the build to not worry about his or her previous skill level, or lack thereof.
“Even if they’ve never swung a hammer it is not a problem, because there are plenty of jobs and the people that we have out here working will show them how to do everything,” Tucker said. “There are all kind of jobs to help with.”
The Starkville Habitat for Humanity office is located behind Cadence Bank. Potential volunteers are asked to drop by or call the office at (662) 324-7008 to check the work schedules for this house. Tucker said they primarily work every Friday and Saturday.
For more information on the 2011 Maroon Edition house or any other Habitat for Humanity projects, go to http://www.starkvillehabitat.com .