U’s Habitat chapter marks 20 year anniversary

Annual events and increased student involvement mark this milestone for the campus fundraising and awareness group.

by Katherine Lymn

The University of MinnesotaâÄôs Habitat for Humanity chapter is marking its twentieth anniversary this week with annual events and a huge jump in student involvement. Approximately eighty students have become official chapter members so far this year, whereas past years have seen about half as much involvement in an entire year, said chapter vice president and agricultural and food business management junior Anna Eggen said. Eggen said this yearâÄôs leadership is a reason for the increase in involvement. âÄúThereâÄôs so much moreâĦcommitment to the group as far as the board is concerned, that I think thatâÄôs leaking over into membership,âÄù she said. The groupâÄôs new Web site is also appealing to students, with numerous ways to contact board members or learn more about the chapter. Speech-language-hearing sciences senior Kirsten Bock and marketing senior Emily Arnselt have been the groupâÄôs fundraising coordinators for the past two years. ThursdayâÄôs Shantytown event and tomorrowâÄôs Habitrot 5K run are two annual events that are marking the twenty-year milestone. âÄúI think that weâÄôre going to really try to keep the twenty-year thing as a theme throughout all of them [the events] to kind of have recognition that this group has been here for this long,âÄù Bock said. ShantytownâÄôs focus is on raising awareness about homelessness, where as the Habitrot will raise money for the group. Shantytown participants took part in a homebuilding contest âÄî equipped with only cardboard and duct tape âÄî and some of the students spent the entire night in their boxes. Nicole Bouley, chair of education for the UniversityâÄôs Habitat group, helped organize the Shantytown event. âÄúThereâÄôs a lot to learn about homelessness,âÄù she said. Many of those who went to Shantytown were freshmen that had gone to some of the chapterâÄôs introductory meetings. âÄúI thought it would be a good way to get involved,âÄù first-year Patrick Terry said. Fellow first-year Anna Cullen said she went because she wants to know what it is like to be homeless before she goes out to build a house for Habitat. The Habitrot circles the East and West Banks twice, starting outside Northrop Auditorium; Bock said the groups is hoping to surpass one hundred runners this year. Since its founding in 1989, the group has âÄúbeen a little bit of a rollercoaster,âÄù Eggen said âÄúAs far as membership and how active the chapter is, it kind of goes in waves,âÄù she said. For the first three or four years of the chapter, from about 1989-1993, membership floated between twenty and thirty members, Eggen said. In the years following, membership bobbed up and down between fifty and one hundred members. This year, Bock said there were a record number 150 attendees at the groupâÄôs introductory meeting on Sept. 9; Eggen said the group is now looking into a larger meeting room. Eggen said official membership âÄî which requires a $20 fee âÄî is at about eighty currently, which is higher than average after just two meetings. Over the groupâÄôs twenty-year lifespan, students have fundraised for the construction of a number of local homes, as well as sending students on building trips to Florida, California and Massachusetts. During the 2001-2002 school year, the chapter sponsored an entire house in Minneapolis, which required $25,000 in fundraising. âÄúThatâÄôs huge, to be able to do that,âÄù Eggen said. Every other year, Eggen said the group aims to raise $10,000 for a house in the community. These funds serve as the monetary donation Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity requires for groups to volunteer at the building sites. âÄúBecause weâÄôre such a large chapter, the Twin Cities affiliate really looks to us âĦto get students involvedâÄù Eggen said. Heather Erickson, youth and education senior associate for Twin Cities Habitat, said the UniversityâÄôs Habitat chapter is one of the strongest campus chapters she works with. âÄúThey have the size and they have a really great board and every year theyâÄôre able to work together and really have a lot of volunteers come out and really support us financially,âÄù Erickson said. Eggen said the chapter has a series of goals for this school year. âÄúAs a board, we are talking more, weâÄôre collaborating with each other, we are trying to grow that partnership with [the] Twin Cities Habitat affiliate, weâÄôre trying to talk more with Habitat International,âÄù Eggen said. âÄúWeâÄôre just really trying to expand our network.âÄù