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December 7, 2001

UMBC Builds a Home

Each weekend, groups of UMBC students head to West Baltimore with hammers and saws in hand, eager for a day of hard work. They are the members of UMBC's chapter of Habitat for Humanity, official sponsors of a four-bedroom rowhouse in the Sandtown area of West Baltimore which they will renovate and turn over to a family in May, 2002.Habitat got its start at UMBC ten years ago as part of the “Into the Streets” program, a one-day service project meant to introduce students to community service opportunities on campus. The UMBC group helped out at a Habitat site in Sandtown and has come back each year since, working on houses sponsored by groups from Johns Hopkins, Towson and Goucher, among others.As the chapter has grown, so has interest in sponsoring a UMBC house in Sandtown. “We tried for quite some time to raise the money to sponsor a house,” said Norma Green, University Center coordinator and advisor to Habitat for Humanity at UMBC. “We had fundraisers and donations from students, staff and alumni, but fell well short of the $20,000 goal.”Christina Bauer, president of Habitat at UMBC, found out about a matching grant available through Habitat International. The group secured $5,000 from Coca-Cola and $5,000 from UMBC, funds which were matched by Habitat to give them the $20,000 necessary to secure the house in Sandtown.Since October, when students officially began work on the home at 1408 Presstman Road, the group estimates that more than 200 students have already pitched in some time. They expect that by the time they complete the house in May, 2002, more than 500 UMBC students, faculty and staff will have picked up a hammer, tape measure or saw and pitched in.According to Chuck Anderson, fundraising chair for Habitat, the fall 2001 semester has been the groups most successful ever. “In terms of fundraising, awareness, participation, action, involvement, and pretty much all other areas, this is has been an amazing semester. We have big plans for the future and it can only get better.”In addition to their work in Sandtown, students from Habitat spend their spring break vacation working alongside hundreds of other students in high-need areas across the country in a Habitat for Humanity International program called Collegiate Challenge.The group began participating in Collegiate Challenge nine years ago when Green was lobbied by some students to head to Miami for Spring Break. “I had other plans, but Spring Break in Miami sounded alright,” said Green. “When they told me to bring my sleeping bag and flashlight I wondered what I had gotten myself into.”Eight students took the trip down to Miami that year — driving through a snowstorm and just missing a tornado — to help out with the clean up and rebuilding effort after Hurricane Andrew. This year, UMBC's Habitat for Humanity group is more than fifty students strong and will be sending another group to Florida to participate in Collegiate Challenge.Anderson hopes to see many more members of the UMBC community at Sandtown in the spring semester. He sees the work with Habitat as “humbling, rewarding, fulfilling and character-building.”“When you begin to see hope take shape in someone's heart, you want that feeling again and again and you want it for everyone.”For more information on Habitat for Humanity at UMBC or the Sandtown project, go to http://sta.umbc.edu/orgs/habitat.

Posted by dwinds1 at December 7, 2001 12:00 AM