Photo courtesy of Jamie Wilson ’17
It was not a typical Saturday morning. Habitat for Humanity had been excitedly anticipating and preparing for this Saturday since last November. Jamie and I groggily awoke at 6:00 a.m., and drove the SLU van to the bookstore, anxiously awaiting for the arrival of our advisor Ashlee and the eleven other students who were about to embark on a week long Alternative Spring Break service trip.
The drive ahead was supposed to take about 14 hours, navigating through five states, to our final destination, Monroe, North Carolina. Excitement was high, especially as snow slowly disappeared with each mile and the sun became more radiant. 17 hours after leaving the snowy North Country, and after a few unintentional directional divergences, we pulled into the Union-Anson County Habitat for Humanity ReStore, which served as our humble abode for the week. The affiliate’s executive director, Mike Reece, welcomed us warmly, and gave us a tour of the facility before we quickly passed out from a long day of travel.
Since we arrived in North Carolina a day early, we had all of Sunday to explore the nearby city, Charlotte, and spent time bonding as a group before the long week ahead. We met up with Mike again in the evening and were given a tour of the two houses we worked on throughout the week. They were both new houses built on property either bought by or donated to the affiliate. We returned to the restore, recharged, and ready to begin work in the early morning, but of course a quick game of hide and seek had to commence before bedtime. The ReStore had endless nooks, crannies, and furniture, which all made for perfect hiding places.
Monday morning marked the beginning of a long but rewarding week of construction. Tory, the build site manager, gave us a quick overview of the Ridgewood Ave house and what the week of work would include. Our group had a wide variety of construction experience, ranging from never before picking up a hammer, to summer construction jobs, but there were always jobs available for all skill levels. Monday’s work consisted of lifting trusses onto the house and adding plywood for the beginning of the roof. At the end of the day our progress was obvious, and it was only day one.
Tuesday included more roof work at the Ridgewood house. More plywood was added and black tar paper was stapled on top. We all finely tuned our hammering skills after endless rows of nails were hammered into the plywood. The future homeowners showed up to help, and it was very rewarding to hear their story and visions for their future home. Although the house still had a lot of work untill completion, meeting the family made us realize how much of a positive impact the final product was going to make in their life.
The group was split up on Wednesday, with half working on the Ridgewood house and the other half traveling down to South Carolina. The build site in SC was at an even earlier stage, so we filled in the foundation and created a water barrier before the cement could be laid. We all reconvened at the ReStore exhausted from a long day, but excited to share stories from each build site.
Windows and doors were installed at the Ridgewood house on Thursday, and this was a big turning point. The addition of doors and windows made it much easier to envision it as a home. When the day came to an end, we were all excited about the completed work, but dreading how quickly our last day was approaching.
Friday was another day of work in two states, but the highlights of the day were interacting with a family that recently moved into their new home and having dinner with the two NC families. Seeing the amount of joy and pride Pam and Lee had for their new home, and witnessing a finished house, made our work throughout the week even more meaningful. Having dinner with Trey and his family and hearing their excitement and plans for their future home, was yet another reminder of how much of a positive impact Habitat for Humanity has on families nationally and worldwide.
Returning to campus after this trip, showed us that we all gained many new carpentry skills, but more importantly, we gained experiences and lasting friendships with individuals we may have never met if it were not for the Habitat Alternative Spring Break trip.
Habitat for Humanity has weekly local builds throughout the year. If you are interested in participating, attend our meetings on Mondays at 6:00 p.m. in room 242 in the Student Center or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information! We also lead winter and spring break service trips each year. More information and applications can be found on the volunteer services webpage.