While many Williams students spent Spring Break lounging around at home or basking in the sun on a beach, a team of 18 students were busy working hard on a Habitat for Humanity project in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The group got dirty and sunburnt building porches, tearing down barns and using a wood chipper.
The trip was coordinated by Lauren Siegel ‘00 and Jeff Herzog ‘00. Herzog led the group of Maureen Merin’ 98, Anne Lemon ’00, Alicia Currier ’00, Cristina Santiestevan ’00, Elizabeth Wood ’00, Judy Wines ’00, Kevin See ’00, Peter Adams ’00, Becky Kummer ’00, SungHwan Kim ’00, Catherine Doe ’01, Caren Mintz ’01, Janet Lee ’01, Meagan Tierney ’01, Paul Holt ’01 and Robert Wittenmyer ‘98.
On March 21, the group began their ten-hour trip to Charlottesville. After some major car troubles, they finally arrived in Charlottesville where they stayed for the following six days.
On Monday morning, the team began work at two different sites. The first site included two houses. The brush and shrubs on the premises of the Austin House needed to be cleared before inhabitants could move into the renovated house. The Williams Habitaters spent many hours clearing the shrubs and brush and sending them through the wood chipper. According to Doe, this activity was much enjoyed by the group. “We came to love the chipper,” she said.
At the Torpe House, some team members built a porch while others tested the land nearby to see if the soil was adequate for building another house. By digging post-holes, they were able to determine if there was enough clay in the soil to support a house.
The rest of the team satisfied their destructive instincts at the other site where they tore down a barn.
The purpose of this project was to salvage the wood which will be sold to raise money for other needed materials.
Last year, Habitat for Humanity raised $20,000 from projects such as this.
Overton Mcghee, the coordinator of the Charlottesville Chapter of Habitat for Humanity, supervised their work. “He was a very likable guy who did everything he could to make our experience better, including coming at all hours of the night to make sure our plans were settled and that we didn’t have any problems,” Herzog said.
In addition to Mcghee’s help, the students also experienced the generosity of several local churches and student organizations. Currier commented, “We experienced much Southern hospitality… namely in the form of large pasta dinners!” The Beth Israel Synagogue in downtown Charlottesville was extremely generous to offer their facility to the group where they slept on cots in one big room.
After a hard day of work, the team spent the night relaxing. From the work sites they went to the University of Virginia to clean themselves.
Then they went back to the temple to eat. After dinner they experienced the night life of Charlottesville line dancing, bowling and playing miniature golf.
On Friday the group only worked half the day and spent the rest of the afternoon at the Monticello. This was a nice break before everyone headed home on Saturday.
“It was an extremely worthwhile and rewarding opportunity. In addition to being able to interact with new Williams students and to develop practical skills, namely chipping lots of wood, we were supporting a world-wide organization. I am very interested in going on a habitat trip again next year,” Currier said.
Holt enjoyed the time he spent outside. “It was fun to do constructive physical work outside after months of doing academics,” he said.
“I was thrilled at how the trip went,” Student Coordinator Herzog said. “All the obstacles seemed to dissolve because people were so cooperative. Everyone just took responsibility for things which made my life a lot easier. The group was really enthusiastic and I got the impression that it was a positive experience for everyone.”