Give a little, Get a lot

Maggie Krohne

Habitat for Humanity uses marshmallows, bricks to build teamwork among volunteers

Junior technology education major and Delta Tau Delta member Marvin Aeschbacher looks at a torn up ceiling while other members of the fraternity nail in floorboards on the second floor. As part of a philanthropic effort, the fraternity brothers of Delta T

Credit: Andrew popik

It takes teamwork to build a house. Especially when it’s made of marshmallows and straws.

But this is exactly what the members of the Kent State chapter of Habitat for Humanity did last week at their meeting.

Three groups were handed jet-puffed marshmallows and three groups were given brilliantly colored straws.

“There’s only one rule,” said Liz Roberts, co-president of Habitat for Humanity and senior interior design major. “You need to make a house with only the materials we’ve given you.”

It did not take long before the marshmallows were mingling with the straws and the construction began.

There were tall houses and small houses.

There were houses with marshmallow furniture surrounded by marshmallow bushes.

There were Kent State students of every kind — art majors, English majors and workshop teachers all with one objective in mind.

“Our mission in doing this exercise was to show that everyone has something to contribute,” Roberts said. “We all come together with different skills, whether it is knowing how to construct a wall or just knowing how to put a nail it. Everyone is needed in this organization.”

That teamwork and diverse collaboration of experience is what allows the organization to thrive, Roberts said.

Habitat for Humanity of Portage County, which builds about three houses a year, is currently working on a West Oak Street house in Kent. The house, which is scheduled to be finished in June, is now in the first phases of construction.

The Kent construction worksite, like the marshmallow exercise, is made up of a variety of people with a variety of skill levels.

Sophomores Erin Riley, Dustin Goldstein and Sivan Eshel were all at the worksite Saturday for the first time.

“Every little bit helps,” said Riley, an English and visual communication design major. “Shop-Vac-ing the room seems kind of stupid because it is so small and so little compared to what everyone else is doing. We all do what we can to give back to the community.”

Akron resident John Howell Jr. is the project coordinator for the Kent site. He brings to the job 12 years of construction experience and the heart of a volunteer.

“I love helping people, and that’s what we do,” Howell said. “We help low-income families get decent homes.”

Those homes, however, are not just given to the people in need, or “partner families” as they are called in the organization.

“Habitat for Humanity is working on getting people into decent, simple, affordable homes,” Roberts said. “It’s not charity. We actually expect people to pay for their homes that we give them, and they put in hours on the house. They have a job and have to pay a low house payment each month.”

The homes built through Habitat for Humanity are built by volunteers throughout Portage County and the surrounding areas.

“I became involved because I knew that Habitat for Humanity dealt with building houses for low-income families, and the idea of helping them build a house interested me,” said David Svegel, worksite coordinator and senior marketing major. “I volunteer because I like giving my time to help other people in need.”

There is more to volunteering for Habitat for Humanity than just building houses, Roberts said.

On Monday, Habitat for Humanity sold carnations for Valentine’s Day and that fund-raiser tends to be one of the group’s biggest moneymakers of the year. It also ran a candy table throughout the year, among other things, to raise money for the organization.

“You don’t have to build houses to get involved,” said Shauna Herom, junior criminal justice studies major. “I usually do things around campus because I can’t always get out to the worksites.”

Houses are paid for by the fund-raisers, companies and sponsor organizations in the community.

“A lot of companies donate a lot of stuff, and we even have individual people donate,” Roberts said. “Like last year we had some guy walk up to us and donate 100 mini-blinds. Tons of stuff is donated to the organization, and it all goes to a good cause.”

When Howell first started volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, he said, the number of people willing to help complete strangers amazed him.

“There’s a lot more people out there than I originally thought that are willing to help other people,” he said. “There’s people here every week to help strangers. They don’t get paid for it, and I’m sure they have other stuff to do on a Saturday afternoon — but they’re here, and that makes a difference.”

Habitat for Humanity meets at 8:30 p.m. every Tuesday in room 316 of the Student Center. To get involved in this organization, just show up, Roberts said.

“You may think you cannot do anything or build anything, but just come to the meetings and see what you can get involved with,” Roberts said. “There’s something for everyone.”

Contact features reporter Maggie Krohne at [email protected].