SHU Habitat Chapter Among Top 5 in U.S.

News Story: October 4, 2007

The efforts of Sacred Heart University's Habitat for Humanity campus chapter have earned it a place among the top five collegiate chapters from among the more than 500 in the nation.

Three of the SHU chapter's board members traveled to Georgia last month to participate in a three-day Habitat Youth Leadership Conference and to accept the award, which features a framed pair of work gloves with the hand-lettered words Habitat Collegiate Chapter of the Year Honorable Mention.

The hand-written inscription is symbolic of the hands-on work so many SHU students do to build homes, improve lives and create neighborhoods, not just in the University' backyard, but throughout the country. They have traveled to New Mexico, Florida, North Carolina and Alabama to construct homes and provide an opportunity to those who might not otherwise come to know the joys of home ownership.

Instead of just raising money for someone else to do the work, we actually do the work building for the families, building with the families, said Shane Dolan, a senior business administration and marketing major from Bristol, R.I., and vice president of the SHU Habitat chapter.

A lot of people think Habitat is very physical, and it is, but it's a lot more than that. It's not just wood and nails, said chapter president Kaitlin Gerberville, a senior nursing student from Hillsborough, N.J. Gerberville said the students get to know the families that will take up residence in the homes they construct, building relationships as well as houses, as evidenced by the attendance of several Habitat families at the official award announcement in University Commons on Oct. 3.

In addition to the award announcement that evening, State Farm Insurance announced a $3000 donation to Habitat for Humanity of Coastal Fairfield County on behalf of Sacred Heart University's Habitat chapter.

Single father Wesley Daniels brought his six children to the announcement and reception, which featured a 3-dimensional brownie house with a Graham cracker roof. Daniels said he was grateful for all the work students did on the home at 86 Catherine Street in Bridgeport that his family will move into on Nov. 1. But the SHU students went above and beyond, he said, hosting a dinner for Habitat families and even offering to babysit for his children.

There's nothing I can do to repay them for what they have done. It amazes me that God can create kids like that who can do so much and not ask for anything in return, Daniels said.

Robert Knebel, president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Coastal Fairfield County, said SHU students are on site at house-building projects every weekend during the school year. They're a special group of kids. It makes you optimistic for the future of the country and of the world to have a group of people so interested in contributing and giving back, he said.

Knebel told SHU students that 30 years from now, they can take their grandchildren on a drive through Bridgeport and point out the Daniels home, And you're going to say, I helped build that house. That house is going to last well beyond your lifetime and you're going to have an impact for a long, long time.

SHU's Habitat chapter is very active, participating in weekly workdays at building sites, sending students on Spring Break work trips, inviting Habitat families to basketball games, and engaging in fundraising efforts to support the campus chapter as well as the local Habitat of Coastal Fairfield County, all of which contributed to positioning the chapter among the best in the country.

Kaitlin Mulqueen, chapter secretary and a junior psychology and education double major from York, Maine, said the SHU Habitat chapter received top five honors as a result of its advocacy, fundraising, educational programs and hands-on building.