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Habitat for Humanity: a growing service presence on campus

By Adriana Belmonte, Opinion Editor
On May 8, 2015

    Since its inception in 2007, Marist’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity has grown in numerous ways. Over the course of two semesters this year, the organization has seen nearly 300 different members attend meetings. The chapter’s newfound success can be attributed to hardworking leaders including a Campus Chapter advisor and six dedicated officers. The President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary/Newburgh Liaison, Committee Chair/Dutchess Liaison, and Public Relations Chair each handle specific responsibilities in order to ensure that the chapter is running smoothly.

   The first meeting is usually when the officers see the greatest amount of people. For their Campus Chapter advisor Timothy Ondrey, that is usually his favorite memory each year. 

   “I haven’t told them this before but there is usually a look of fear on their faces as 300 of their peers get seated and look to them as leaders,” Ondrey said. “That fear soon disappears though as excitement and pride takes over while discussing all of the good they will be building as part of our Habitat family.” 

   Many officers agree that members slowly become like a family towards one another, especially after attending builds and events together. Katie Gillick, the Public Relations Chair, said that the sense of family that she found is something that she hopes other members take out of Habitat for Humanity.

   “If there is anything that I would hope people take away from their experience as part of Marist’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity, it would be the same sense of welcome and friendship that I experienced,” Gillick said. “We are a community and seek to spread that message to others.” 

   The Collegiate Challenge is the big annual event where officers and members witness the bonds that are easily formed. Held each year during spring break, the Collegiate Challenge is a service trip where the club officers and a select group of members travel to a location picked out in advance that is in need of service. This service entails building a house, which can include landscaping, painting, cleaning and more. Club officers agree that this is their favorite part of Habitat for Humanity and that their best memories come from this trip. Current president Christine Venuti hardly knew anyone when she attended her first Collegiate Challenge to Arkansas during her sophomore year. 

   “I was nervous but I instantly became friends with everyone on the trip,” she said. “We became a family.” She decided to run for president after attending the trip to New Mexico during her junior year. “It was just something that felt right,” Venuti said. 

   For freshman Danny Chon, it was a similar story. He attended the most recent trip to Florida and did not know anybody going into it. After making many friends on the trip, he realized how happy he was to have the experience and went on to be elected the Dutchess Liaison/Committee Chair for the Fall 2015 semester. 

   “The Collegiate Challenge will always be something I can look back on as one of the best trips of my life,” Chon said. “This greatly influenced my decision to run for a board position—I wanted to give others a chance to experience the same amazing trip I had.” 

Photo Courtesy Of Chris Manobianco

Members of Marist’s Habitat for Humanity chapter pose for a photo in front of a Habitat build at the Collegiate Challenge event in Ovedo, Florida

   While current Dutchess Liaison and future Vice President Christina O’Neil agrees that the Collegiate Challenge is one of her favorite parts of Habitat, she also enjoys another aspect: speaking with the future homeowner that members are working with. 

   “I love hearing their stories while working them and learning more about them,” O’Neil said. “One thing that Habitat does that I find very unique is the concept of sweat equity.” Sweat equity means that every homeowner who is eligible for a Habitat home must put a certain number of hours of physical labor into building their home in return for a lower mortgage. “This allows homeowners to work on their home and build a respect and attachment to it, as well as allow us to work with them along the way,” O’Neil added. 

   The chapter’s current goal is trying to reach out to even more students for next semester. They are working towards having members earn service points rather than club points towards the priority point system. While the chapter does not know what the outcome will be, they are confident that having the chapter recognized as a service organization will lead to even more involvement from the Marist community. Until then, Habitat for Humanity officers are perfectly content with making a difference around them with whatever help they can get.

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