Habitat students raise roofbeams over spring break

Aaron Mudd

While some students returned to campus from spring break vacations, members of WKU’s Habitat for Humanity came back to classes after completing building projects outside of Kentucky. Habitat sent groups of students to Washington, Pa., and Columbus, Ga., to help families in need with construction work. 

Glasgow sophomore Gavin Young, who’s been on four Habitat trips, said she found her trip to Washington, Pa., worthwhile. Along with other students, she helped tear down old walls, frame new ones, pour concrete, cut down a pipe and build a new porch.

“I’d rather do that than go to the beach or do absolutely nothing over spring break,” she said. “So it’s a win-win; you get to have a good time but also get to help people out.” 

To Jeffry Edwards, a senior from Murray and the president of WKU Habitat, the organization isn’t just about building for those living in substandard housing. During their Act! Speak! Build! week, Habitat members advocate for support from legislators. 

“It’s this week that Habitat puts on and it’s worldwide,” Edwards said. “We advocate, meaning that we go to our government officials, we send letters, and we send handmade paper houses to grab attention from our legislators.”

During her time working with Habitat, Young said she’s encountered misconceptions that people have about the families receiving help.

“A lot of people think that the home is given to the families, that they don’t have to pay for it,” she said. “But the families do pay for it.”

Young said that in order for a family to get a Habitat home, it has to meet certain requirements such as helping to build its own house or someone else’s. Also, families have to show they’ve paid rent in the past and currently have a job. However, the most important factor is the need for a home. 

WKU Habitat keeps pretty busy. Along with its out-of-state projects, the organization recently helped an elderly man build a fence on his property, and it built a shed for the Department of Geography and Geology on campus. 

“We’ve taken a couple trips out to West Liberty, Ky., which had been hit by a tornado in May of 2012,” Edwards said. “There was lots of need for new houses, and Habitat had stepped in to help make it possible for those homeowners to afford a home.” 

The organization is open for everyone, and even Young’s inexperience with construction didn’t stop her from joining Habitat. 

“There’s always a construction manager on the site so they kind of give you direction on what you need to do,” she said. “And then the upper level people, who have been on numerous trips, they guide you and help you.”

Audrey Castlen, from Owensboro, has been involved with Habitat since her freshman year. She’s currently a junior and has been on seven habitat trips. 

Castlen said that the organization has taught her useful skills that she didn’t have before joining. 

“I didn’t know how to use a saw,” Castlen said. “I’ve definitely learned a lot of cool things to know for if I ever wanted to do something with my house.”

The family she worked with in Columbus appreciated the work her group put into finishing a roof for a home. Her group got to work with a man in the partner family.

“He was really cool, really helpful and really nice,” Castlen said. “We asked him how he felt about having a bunch of college students working on his house and he said ‘Oh ya’ll are doing a great job. Keep up the good work.’”

For Castlen, the Habitat trips make her feel like she’s spending her spring break doing something worthwhile.

“You always feel so good at the end because you’re doing something for someone else, thinking about someone else and not just about yourself and your life,” she said. “I find it rewarding.”

Young first got involved with Habitat when she was required to volunteer with an organization for one her classes last fall. It’s something she wants to continue doing because she loves it.

“I feel like it’s something that once you start it’s like an itch,” Young said. “You want to keep doing it.”