Volunteer turnout for "House United" reflects spirit of Auburn Family

By Neali Vann, Office of Communications and Marketing


When the call went out from Auburn University's Office of Public Service for volunteers to man the recent "House United" effort, a joint tornado recovery home building project in Tuscaloosa's Holt community, members representing every part of the Auburn Family answered.

More than 40 Auburn men and women, including faculty, staff, students, family members and alumni from Auburn's main campus and Auburn Montgomery arrived at the site in groups and individually from Auburn, Montgomery, Birmingham, Tuscaloosa and surrounding counties to raise two Habitat for Humanity houses in Holt.

All but a handful of the approximately 100 homes in the Holt community were destroyed by tornadoes that swept through Alabama in April. "House United" was a joint effort by the Auburn University Outreach Office of Public Service, the Alabama Association of Habitat for Humanity Affiliates and the University of Alabama Community Service Center to begin the community's rebuilding process.

Spearheading Auburn's volunteer effort were Ralph Foster, director of the Office of Public Service, and Joyce Thomas-Vinson, the program administrator of student engagement and service learning. They coordinated two teams of volunteers, one from each of Auburn's campuses and made up of about 30 faculty, staff, family members and graduate and undergraduate students. The campus teams were joined by about a dozen alumni and other members of the Auburn Family.

"We've had a great response from not only our students, but from faculty, staff and alumni as well," said Foster. "Thus, the whole of the Auburn Family will be represented in this important effort."

The Office of Public Service promotes faculty, student and staff engagement through the development of community and institutional partnerships. A year ago, the Office of Public Service and the Alabama Association of Habitat for Humanity Affiliates formed a partnership to develop a summer service learning project uniting teams from both Auburn and Alabama faculty and students.

Although the original project decided on was a Habitat for Humanity house in Baldwin County, the urgent need for help in the Tuscaloosa area caused by the April tornadoes prompted a change of plans. In a period of one month, the new project went from the planning stage to the start of construction.

"Seeing the Auburn Family come together for such a cause with our friends at the University of Alabama has really shown us what the Auburn Spirit is all about," said volunteer Taylor Gunter, a graduate student working in the Office of Public Service.

NOTE: Photos were contributed by Taylor Gunter.

Last Updated: July 22, 2011

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