First college-sponsored house built by U Habitat chapter

Amy Hackbarth

Although hesitant to wield a hammer, University President Mark Yudof was quick to praise University students during his Monday visit to the construction site of the University Habitat for Humanity Campus Chapter house.

“University students have always had a high rate of volunteerism,” Yudof said. “They donate their time, they donate their money, and it’s not as if tuition is going down.”

Yudof commended the approximately 100 University students who have worked on the house, the first of its kind in the country to be sponsored by a college group. The house was built for a lower-income family to buy at a discounted price.

During his half-hour visit, Yudof toured the house, spoke with
students and added some siding to the nearly finished building.

Before pounding 13 nails into their intended holes, Yudof spoke to the crowd about his father, who worked as an electrician.

“Even he didn’t trust me with a hammer,” Yudof said.

While Yudof did add two new sheets of beige siding to the home, his visit represented something more significant than five minutes of work, said Jill Kilibarda, youth and college volunteer coordinator for Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity.

“It demonstrates that the administration is willing to acknowledge the chapter as a permanent part of campus life,” she said.

The University group has grown drastically since the beginning of fall semester, said Brian Barlow, the chapter’s co-president.

Before the school year started, the group had approximately 30 active members. Now the numbers top out at more than 100, with another 600 on the group’s electronic mailing list.

Barlow credited the group’s growth to its work on the house.

“Students are really able to take pride in this house, to see the family who is going to own the house and to work beside them,” he said. “It really brings the issue of affordable housing home to them.”

The house should be finished during the summer, Barlow said. Students and other groups will have worked for approximately 5,000 hours by that time.

“It’s going to be a bit of a push to get it done, but I think we’ll be able to do it,” he said.

The chapter also hopes to complete its fund-raising goals by the summer, Barlow said. After selling food and souvenirs, hosting a battle of the bands and coordinating other fund-faising efforts, the chapter is less than $4,000 from its $25,000 goal.

Any money over that amount will go to the chapter’s fund for next year, Barlow said. The group hopes to create a tradition by sponsoring another house next year, he said.

“That’s the goal,” he said. “Then every year we can come back and build on that house and on our relationship with Twin Cities Habitat.”

Amy Hackbarth welcomes comments at [email protected]