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Habitat begins work on new house

Melissa Flanagan | Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Last month, Notre Dame’s Habitat for Humanity Club began construction on the 17th house it has built during its time as a student group.

The club commits to building one house each year for a family it chooses based on stability of jobs, support systems and Christian values, according to senior Deborah Olmstead, who serves as club co-president.

This year, Habitat’s house is being built for a family of four, which consists of a father and three children, Olmstead said. Their future home is located on Milburn Court in Mishawaka.

It will be a one-story house, with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a basement and a garage.

But Habitat does not simply hand out houses, Notre Dame senior and club co-president Olmstead said.

“We do not give away houses for free,” she said. “The owner will have a mortgage that’s interest free and that’s worth the value of all the materials in the house. They pay that over 15 years.”

Houses are built at the lowest cost possible by having volunteers do as much of the work as possible and by bargaining discounts for supplies from local businesses, Olmstead said.

Habitat has had one regular weekend build so far this year, along with its annual Blitz Build event. The first regular build was attended by 25 to 30 volunteers and was a huge success, Olmstead said.

“We finished our work two hours earlier than expected,” Olmstead said.

Blitz Build takes place over Fall Break to construct the entire exterior of a home.

“We invite past alumni to help us and we provide free breakfast and lunch for our volunteers,” Olmstead said. “At the end of the day we go out to dinner together and participate in social activities.”

During the fall, builds take place on away football game weekends, and in the spring there is one nearly every weekend, Olmstead said. The next build is Saturday.

Habitat for Humanity of St. Joseph County assists Notre Dame’s chapter of the organization. Beyond technical work such as electricity and plumbing, the house is built entirely by volunteers.

“It touches me to know I’m giving families something they could not acquire on their own,” Olmstead said.

Habitat’s funds come entirely from alumni donations and fundraising events. Their next event, Jail ‘N Bail, will take place Friday afternoon.

For this fundraiser, students can sign up to have themselves or a friend “arrested” by NDSP and brought to a makeshift jail on South Quad. The “bailout” fee is $10.

Next year, Habitat is looking to travel abroad, Olmstead said.

“We hope to go abroad on a global village project and help with construction projects in either Mexico or Senegal,” she said.

Olmstead, who used to be the family liaison for the club, said that she believes Habitat for Humanity enables families to provide opportunities for their children.

“When I was family liaison we took a single mother and her kids to Mega Play,” Olmstead said, “and she came up to me and said I don’t get to do this kind of stuff with my kids.”