Spring break. Two rival institutions. Two happy families. This is House United.
A House United is a joint project between the Auburn University Office of Public Service, Habitat for Humanity and the University of Alabama. This year, over 35 students from each school spent their spring break working together as part of the second House United project, assisting with the building of two Habitat for Humanity homes in Baldwin County, Alabama.
Auburn University Outreach's own Ralph Foster, Director of Public Service, made the journey to Baldwin County for the week to assist with the project. Mr. Foster recorded his experience through the following daily summaries to give others an idea of the scope and meaningfulness of this project as well as to encourage everyone to join us next year for this amazing House United experience.
On March 11, the Auburn team set out for Baldwin County, home to Alabama’s beautiful beaches. But this was no ordinary spring break outing. This group of undergraduate and graduate students, staff and other volunteers were headed south to build not one, but two homes for deserving families as part of Habitat for Humanities' House United. Arriving in Foley, Alabama, the group met their Alabama counterparts at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church which graciously provided housing during the project. After a pizza party hosted by the Baldwin County Habitat Office, and some team building games, the teams settled in for the night.
Morning brought a massive thunderstorm through the Baldwin County area. Habitat officials suggested the teams stay put at the church. After lunch and several dozen hands of Uno, the participants were anxious to get building. However, the work site was flooded and the build was postponed for the day. After some deliberation, the teams decided to follow the old saying “when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping!” After spending the day at the areas giant factory outlet mall, the teams reunited at the church for a “do it yourself” spaghetti dinner. Half the team members cooked, the others washed – all ate and enjoyed a great supper and fellowship.
Finally out on the building sites, the teams met the families for whom the homes were being constructed. The two homes were side-by-side, but had been started at different times. The exterior walls and roof were erected on one home, but the other was only a slab foundation. The teams went straight to work and by late morning had completed the walls on the second house, while workers insulated the first house. Lunch was provided and the teams settled in for a break when the first sprinkles of rain started to fall. Within minutes, the site was soaked by a driving rain, sending team members running for whatever cover they could fine. Once again, work was suspended for the day and the soggy workers went back to headquarters.
Sunny Wednesday was productive. Work proceeded rapidly finishing the wall erection on the second house. After lunch, work was scheduled to suspend for the teams to spend the afternoon at the beach. A fine mist covered the beaches, but team members enjoyed Frisbee, football and relaxing on the shore for a couple of hours. However, many of the students wanted to stay and work to catch up after losing so much time to rain. So construction continued into the afternoon with the groups reuniting for dinner.
The greatest challenge yet faced the teams. Mounting the roof supports required almost all the team members working in unison to lift and place the massive pieces into place. About fifteen students worked on the ground while the rest perched at the top of the walls to grab and pull the supports into place, one by one. By lunch, all supports were into place and mounted securely. Meanwhile, finishing work continued on the first house with all insulation being completed and the first of the electrical wiring being installed.
The roofs on both houses were the focus of the last day of work. On the first house, the roof decking was in place, but had to be covered in preparation for shingles to be installed. On the second house, the decking panels had to be installed on top of the supports which were mounted the day before. Midday, the teams came together for group photographs with their homebuilding families. By the end of the day, the decking was completed on the second house, and each looked more and more like the homes they would become. In the evening, the House United team members assembled for one final dinner and reflection on the week of good, hard work together. On the way back to headquarters, the group descended on Brewsters ice cream on the beach. The shocked servers were about to close for the evening when more than 40 new customers came walking up. After lots of laughs, cones and sprinkles, the teams headed back to Foley for the last time.
The final day, the teams cleaned up their church headquarters and packed before leaving for the work site. Today was for reflection on the week’s work and dedication of the site to the families. Habitat staff performed the ceremony, thanking the students for their hard work and sharing time with the extended families who will occupy the new homes. After lunch and a number of heartfelt goodbyes, the teams parted for home – half to Auburn and half to Tuscaloosa. But even though separated by campus and traditional rivalry, everyone involved will be always united in spirit by the homes they build together in House United.
Thanks to all involved in the planning and execution of the 2012 “House United” Habitat for Humanity Baldwin County: Joyce Thomas-Vinson, Auburn University Office of Public Service; Ron Anders, Alabama Association of Habitat for Humanity Affiliates; Wahnee Sherman and Rachel Edington, University of Alabama; Tim King, Brittany Loper and Whitney Esdale, Auburn ASB; and Walter Hendrix, Kristine Underwood and Cathy Blake, Baldwin County Habitat for Humanity. Appreciation to Kevin Fichtner, Melissa Humble and Carol Nelson, Office of Communications and Marketing, for photo and media coverage. Special thanks to Father Keith Talbert and the congregation of Saint Paul's Episcopal Church, and Mr. and Mrs. George Hawthorn for their hospitality in housing the teams; to State Farm and the Alabama Poverty Project for their support of the project; and to India Sewell and Cassandra Garrett and their families for allowing us to be a part of the building of their homes.
Auburn team participants included: Daniel Benton, Kathleen Carroll, Amanda Currvin, John Dasher, Allison Erwin, Whitney Esdale, Ralph Foster, Erica Keyes, Brittany Loper, Molly McGowan, Jonathan Moore, Bailey Noel, Julie Scott, Sarah Tam, Joyce Thomas-Vinson, Charles Valadie, and Sara Wells.
“House United” is a joint project of the Auburn University Office of Public Service, the Alabama Association of Habitat for Humanity Affiliates, and the University of Alabama.
For more photos, visit Auburn University's Flickr Photostream.
Last Updated: January 9, 2013