Students Sleep Out to Raise Funds for Habitat for Humanity

News Story: October 25, 2013

There was nothing traditional about this campout: cardboard boxes for shelters, a deejay spinning tunes, a dance instructor teaching Salsa and relay races. For that matter, the campsite, outside a café, was not very remote either. But the Habitat for Humanity (HFH) Sleep Out sure did create some good old fun while raising funds to help families without their own adequate shelters.

Conducted by Sacred Heart University’s HFH chapter in an overnight period from 6 p.m. Friday, October 18, to 6 a.m. Saturday, October 19, the annual fall event was held on a patio adjacent to the school’s 63’s dining hall on its Fairfield campus. About 100 people—a mix of students, alumni, advisers and graduate students—participated in the activity.

All participants, along with some 300 chapter members, were required to send out 10 donation request letters to friends and family, with a mission of raising funds for the local affiliate, HFH of Coastal Fairfield County.

“Fundraising is a requirement of chapter membership,” said Taylor Filanowski, the campus chapter’s student vice president. “We do that through this event, but also all year with projects like collecting money and canned food at Stop & Shop, selling clothing and developing restaurant partnerships. But donation letters are key and are distributed constantly.”

Every spring break, 100 lucky campus chapter members get the opportunity to travel to select destinations to help HFH on the ground. After a goal of $10,000 is raised for the Eastern Fairfield County affiliate, additional funds collected by the campus chapter are used to cover travel expenses for the trips. Five destinations, with 20 participants assigned to each location, are determined. This coming spring, the students will head to the states of Washington, West Virginia, South Carolina, Florida and Texas. Participants are onsite for the entire break; in 2014, that’s March 2-9.

“Participants on the trips will do everything from renovation to new construction, guided by team leaders with contractor experience,” said Filanowski.

Besides the activities mentioned, the Sleep Out event also included Zumba classes, a campfire, Habitat Olympics with a nail hammering contest, outdoor movies, seek-and-find challenges, hot chocolate, a live acoustic guitar performance by local talent and alumnus Bill Haug and even a Habitat client as a guest speaker. Organizers also collected canned food and sold long-sleeved T-shirts to raise funds. As of 9 p.m. Friday, 35 shirts had been sold at $20 each.

“I was exposed to Habitat through a pre-fall program, which sparked my initial interest,” said Filanowski. “I became a general chapter member, went on a trip (to Benton, Ark.), held a position as the publicity chair and then was elected VP. It’s a great feeling to help and work alongside clients. We bond and it results in an amazing sense of accomplishment.”