Habitat group builds home over winter break

Anna Anderson

Before members of the WKU Habitat for Humanity chapter traveled home for the holidays, they made a pit-stop to the small town of Lucedale, Miss., to give a family of five one of the biggest gifts imaginable — a second start. They built them a new house.

The family — a mother, father and three children — had been living in a tiny trailer on inherited property, and they were anxious to spread out and put down roots. They had contacted the local affiliate of Habitat for Humanity, and began the process of building and owning their own house.

“Habitat for Humanity is a hand up, not a handout,” said Ben Phillips, a 20-year-old junior form Henderson, Ky.

Phillips said that in order to apply to build a house with Habitat for Humanity, families and individuals have to participate in other builds in the area, take classes on money management, have regular income and add their names to the waiting list.

When the team from WKU arrived on Dec. 16, the family had worked to meet these requirements, and they were ready for the next step.

“They were an amazing family, they worked so hard,” said 20-year-old Elizabeth Ebelhar. The junior from Owensboro is currently the president of the WKU Habitat for Humanity chapter.

She said when her group — alongside another chapter from Baldwin-Wallace University in Ohio — arrived in Lucedale, the build site consisted of a concrete slab that had been laid in preparation for the home.

Over the next few days, the two groups erected walls, a roof, put on siding and fortified the structure against hurricanes. Despite their work schedules, Ebelhar said the parents worked on the home whenever they could. Even the children would don hardhats to pick up nails and do other small jobs.

For Ebelhar, the best memory she will have of the trip was the way the children reacted to different stages of the build.

On Monday morning, Ebelhar said the children got on the bus for school while she and the other builders were having a meeting on the concrete foundation. That morning, the team was able to put up all of the walls and finished just in time for the children to come home.

The children’s surprise and excitement of seeing such a drastic change in their new home was unforgettable, Ebelhar said. Adam Wilck, a 22-year-old junior from Franklin, Tenn., agreed.

“They just tore down the road cheering,” Wilck said. “They were just so excited.”

By the end of the week, the WKU Habitat crew was excited to get home to their families for Christmas. But Ebelhar said their parting was bittersweet. They didn’t want to leave the family they’d helped and the friends they’d met from Baldwin-Wallace.

Ebelhar said Habitat for Humanity was unique because their simple acts lead to huge differences in people’s lives.

“It doesn’t feel like we’re giving that much of ourselves, and they’re getting so much,” she said.

The WKU Habitat for Humanity chapter is currently planning build trips for Spring Break. For more information on Habitat for Humanity and their future plans, email the chapter at [email protected]