Habitat for Humanity builds sheds for community

Radcliff sophomore Allison Hohenstein prepares lumber to be cut while building trusses for sheds to go to families in Bowling Green. This was Hohenstein’s first time participating in the WKU chapter of Habitat of Humanity, who had their beginners’ build Sept. 7.

Rebekah Alvey

The WKU chapter of Habitat for Humanity had their first building project for new members on Sept. 7, beginning work on sheds they will build over the next several weeks.

Bryan Reaka, WKU chapter adviser, has served as adviser for 14 years. He initially started working with Habitat for Humanity over 20 years ago while receiving his undergraduate degree at Eastern Illinois University.

As a non-traditional student, Reaka said he was looking for a more meaningful and appropriate way to spend his spring break when he learned about the alternative trip through Habitat for Humanity.

While building a home for a family of immigrants from Mexico, a high school girl in the family began asking the Habitat for Humanity volunteers about college. The girl would be the first member of her family to graduate from high school, and didn’t know what to expect in applying or attending a university.

WKU chapter adviser Bryan Reaka, who was on the trip, said the girl went on to get a degree in nursing and is now a midwife.

Reaka said the most impactful thing for him while working with families has been “giving that most valuable resource of time to someone I’ve never met and seeing appreciation.”

Through the trip, Reaka said he was able to see how his work helped others. This, coupled with his pre-existing interest for building, caused him to stay with the organization and help college students become involved as well.

According to the Habitat for Humanity website, the organization works with community members on a local, state, national and international level. Homeowners work with volunteers to build their house or parts of their house.

The first build was working on trusses for sheds. Reaka said these would be going to houses in Bowling Green and will be visible from Van Meter Hall.

The Habitat for Humanity group will meet every other week in addition to chapter events. Reaka said a project will last about three weeks before they move on to another.

At the beginners’ build, only one student in attendance had ever worked with tools before. After operating a power saw, freshman Chloe Cooper said she had never done anything like building or using tools which was “terrifying,” but it felt good to be doing something for other people.

During a project, Reaka said people can still help even if they can’t build. He explained that the four core initiatives are building, fundraising, education and advocacy. Through the advocacy initiative, Reaka said people will address politicians and tell them about issues involving substandard housing in the community.

Brandenburg junior Hannah King said she ultimately wants to go abroad through the program and has aspirations of joining AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps. King participated in the organization last year and now serves as the president of the WKU chapter.

Outside of local builds, the chapter offers opportunities for students to go on trips during breaks from school. Last year, King said she went on two of these trips: one over spring break to Oklahoma and another during the summer to California.

During both of these trips, King said she worked with community members and other WKU students on projects ranging from building the frame of a house to laying concrete. King said she was involved with service throughout high school and knew she wanted to do something meaningful with her time.

King said helping out when possible helps you “become a better version of yourself.” She said she also finds it rewarding to see the progress she has personally made in her skills, but also the progress she makes in other people’s lives.

“There’s a lot of need,” King said.

Reporter Rebekah Alvey can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].