Volunteers Help Construct Husky House
More than 600 UConn students are trading their springtime weekends to help an economically disadvantaged family realize the dream of home ownership, as work gets under way on Husky House, a two-story colonial the students are building in Willimantic that will be sold at cost, complete with a no-interest mortgage.
The home, on Lafayette Street, will be built by UConn students and staff, with help from the campus community. Professionals from a variety of trades at UConn have volunteered to supervise the work, and a number of local merchants have agreed to donate supplies to the effort, which is co-sponsored by the UConn and Windham chapters of Habitat for Humanity.
Work on the home began April 21, and will continue every weekend at least through May 6, when final exams compete for the students' interests. Construction will start again in late August. The project is expected to take about 40 days, or 20 weekends, to complete.
"This house is special to the UConn community because most chapters (of Habitat for Humanity) sponsor only part of a house. We're sponsoring the whole thing, and agreed to raise the $50,000 to pay for it," says Stephanie Hardy, president of the UConn chapter of Habitat. "It's also important because it's a project that will take the efforts of the entire University community to build. Several groups have helped us raise the money and we're relying on more than 600 UConn volunteers to build the house."
UConn students have had some practice in home building. During the past few years, volunteers with Habitat for Humanity have contributed time, labor and money to help construct six homes in Vernon, several in Hartford, and another in Willimantic.
The family chosen from among dozens of applicants to purchase the house will be allowed to secure an interest-free mortgage of $50,000. The students raised the $50,000 for building costs through several fund-raisers this semester; Home Depot has agreed to supply $12,000 worth of supplies; and $10,000 was directed to the chapter through the Connecticut State Employees Charitable Campaign. Monthly payments from the homeowners will help replenish the Habitat's bank account, which will then be used to build another home.
"I'm extremely proud of our students," says Vicky Triponey, vice chancellor for student affairs. "They work hard at their studies, most are involved in campus activities and organizations, many work after class, and now they're donating their weekends to give something back to the local community and make a positive difference in the world beyond UConn."
The Husky House is an outgrowth of a UConn task force that, in 1999, delivered a report outlining a series of recommendations for building a more cohesive and civil campus community. The task force, which included students, faculty and administrators, recommended in the report that the University seek ways to formally establish new campus traditions that would be meaningful to the University community. Soon after the report was issued, the student chapter of Habitat for Humanity proposed that the campus community come together to support construction of a home for an economically disadvantaged family in the greater Mansfield area - the Husky House.
"This University is fortunate to have a large number of students who are active in a wide variety of public service programs and activities," says Carol Petersen, chairperson of the Husky House Project and Chancellor John Petersen's wife. "Some students volunteer in schools in Connecticut's inner cities while others travel internationally to assist in humanitarian relief efforts. The University's student chapter of Habitat for Humanity provides a wonderful example of UConn students working together to make a difference in the world around them. They are some of UConn's finest emissaries."
The home will be built on Lafayette Street, near downtown Willimantic and within yards of the Willimantic recreation complex. It will take about 40 days to build, with students working Saturdays and Sundays until the home is ready for occupancy.
Anyone interested in helping in the effort can register as a volunteer at http://uconnhabitat.hypermart.net, or by calling Dana Wilder at (860) 486-2422, Logan Trimble at (860) 486-5249, or Stephanie Hardy at (860) 429-0656.