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Habitat for Humanity goes to New Orleans

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Andrew Dittmar

Staff writer

Over winter break, RC’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity will be taking its annual trip to New Orleans.

Advised by Chaplain Paul Henrickson, RC’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity has been very active presence on-campus for 25 years. Initially, work projects began in Columbia, South Carolina, before moving to more localized projects in the Roanoke Valley. Trips to New Orleans came about following Hurricane Katrina.

All freshman students are granted a taste of the RC Habitat experience during orientation, when they work in shifts to build a Habitat house for a family in the Roanoke Valley as a part of R-House. After the hull of the house is constructed, it’s transported to its permanent location. After that, volunteer crews from the campus spend Saturday mornings continuing to make the house complete and livable for the family. R-House made its orientation debut in August of 2006. The house constructed was the very first Habitat house to be built as a part of a college orientation.

Besides the annual winter break New Orleans trip, the chapter takes two annual trips to Columbia, South Carolina, one during fall break and one during spring break. This year’s trip was attended by 25 students, who bonded together to work on not just one, but two, Habitat houses. One was built from the ground up, from foundation to roof, with students doing everything from carpentry to putting the roof together.

“It was an incredible experience,” Haley Toresdahl ’15, who went on the fall break trip, said. “Watching a house be built from the ground up in just a week was astonishing. I didn’t know a group of college students could actually accomplish that.”

The second house was a fixer-upper. Originally occupied by a displaced Katrina victim, the house had been sold back to Habitat and was in need of painting, cleaning, and some basic repairs before its new owner moved in.

Though students did much of the work on both houses, they were accompanied by a handful of Habitat staff, as well as the future homeowners themselves.

Habitat also sponsors a number of fundraisers. On October 31st, a group of RC students went “trick-or-treating” dressed as Habitat employees, requesting donations from the surrounding community to further promote Habitat. On November 11th, fourteen teams of four competed in Shack Attack, where they built, with some restrictions, shelters for the night, which they were required to sleep in. The event raised nearly $5000 for future builds.

The experience of an RC Habitat has become something of an addiction for many participants. A number of participants on the fall break Habitat trip, including the author of this article, will be continuing with the group onto New Orleans.

For any student desiring to expand their skills, develop new ones, or just experience the joys of working together in a group to achieve a greater good, the RC chapter of Habitat for Humanity provides ample opportunity.