No break for Habitat for Humanity

By Kelsey Caudill

While most students at UK are gearing up for a week of partying or relaxation, one group is sacrificing its spring break to do manual labor.

UK’s Habitat for Humanity chapter is traveling to Biloxi, Miss., next week to help build a house in an area that was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.

President Joe Tarantino, a chemical engineering senior, said Habitat for Humanity is partnering with Doug Roederer to make this trip happen.

A Lexington resident who organizes builds in the southern U.S., Roederer introduced UK’s chapter to the Hope Community Development Agency in Biloxi, which was established in 2005 to rebuild the community post-Katrina.

The group will work on the house for five days, eight hours a day. Construction work will include caulking, painting, laying tile, grouting, putting in doors and baseboards, laying a sidewalk and landscaping.

Although the 23 students on the trip have different levels of construction experience, Tarantino said Roederer is helping the group prepare for the build.

“Doug has been a great help,” Tarantino said.  “He came to a couple of meetings and did a demonstration with a nail gun and went over different jobs that are going to be available on the site.”

Vice President Dan Wavering said this trip will give UK’s group a taste of the poverty that still exists in the Deep South long after Katrina.

“It’s extremely important to educate our members on the housing situation all over the country … to get out there and show how bad it is in some areas,” Wavering, an economics and spanish senior, said.

Tarantino said the UK chapter has about 40 members who work regularly with the Lexington Habitat for Humanity on local builds.  He said this build will be different from projects they have done in the past.

“Ninety-nine times out of 100 when we work on a house, we’re doing it locally,” Tarantino said. “This is a little different because we are trying to incorporate the spring break aspect and get to go somewhere, but at the same time, still build a house.”

Tarantino and Wavering agreed the most challenging aspect of the trip would be the intensive labor.

“Putting in five solid days of physical labor is something that most college students are not used to,” Tarantino said.

Jazzy Shoup, an international studies and psychology freshman, said she is happy to spend her spring break doing volunteer work.

“I really enjoy giving back to the community, and that’s the primary reason I’m going,” Shoup said. “I think it helps me grow as a person, and I think helping others is more beneficial in the scheme of life.”

Tarantino said the Hope Community Development Agency is making preparations for UK to arrive on Saturday.  He said the goal is for the family to move into the house by March 18.

Aside from the physical labor involved with the build, Shoup said this trip would be a growing experience for UK Habitat for Humanity.

“I’m really looking forward to growing in relationships with the people that are going on the trip in our chapter,” Shoup said.

Wavering said he is thrilled with the number of students who are dedicating their spring breaks to volunteering. He said he is also looking forward to establishing closer relationships with fellow members.

“I’m really a little shocked but extremely happy and proud that there are that many people (in) our group willing to give up an entire spring break to do manual labor,” Wavering said.  “I think that speaks not only a lot about our club, but also about the university in general.”