Habitat chapter renewed

Kevin Lester

Many of Western’s students want to enjoy pleasant living conditions.

They might grumble about the misery of life atop Pearce-Ford Tower or squabble over rooms with private bathrooms.

But there are others who are mainly concerned about those who can’t afford homes at all.

Habitat for Humanity is back on campus, and the renewed chapter is planning to make a difference.

Brian Reaka, a new professor in the department of architecture and manufacturing, has led the effort to bring Habitat back to Western.

A previous Habitat chapter at Western folded.

Ryan Morse, former Western student and Habitat participant, said he was unsure why the earlier program ended, but speculated that the graduation of the program’s student leadership played a role.

Habitat works with low-income homeowners, helping them build quality homes for low prices. The program is a Christian ministry with an open-door policy, meaning that people can get involved regardless of religious preference.

Louisville freshman Miranda Childs attended the program’s first organizational meeting and is interested in participating.

“Some people want to help in the community, and this is an opportunity,” Childs said. “Try it. You’ll love the feeling you get when you see the looks and sometimes tears of gratitude that are always received.”

Reaka previously worked with Habitat when he was a student at Southern Illinois University.

Reaka told of a time he had the opportunity to work alongside two parents who never completed high school. He met their daughter, who began asking him about how to get into college, and Reaka was able to advise her.

“It’s one of the greatest things I’ve seen Habitat do,” he said. “She saw that she could accomplish what they (the student workers) were doing.”

The group is intent on succeeding in three areas: building, educating and fund raising.

Reaka said educating the public is the primary concern right now.

“We want people to know that there is a problem out there with substandard housing,” Reaka said. “We want to eradicate the problem.”

The group is trying to find creative ways to spark students’ curiosity. One proposed plan for the future is to actually build a house on campus during Homecoming week, then transport it into the community.

But Reaka hopes students are attracted to Habitat’s service-based agenda.

“It cuts across so many social economic racial barriers,” Reaka said. “It builds community. It builds hope. It breaks down stereotypes … and it’s the right thing to do.”

There will be a Habitat for Humanity meeting in Downing University Center, Room 340 at 6:30 p.m.

Reach Kevin Lester at [email protected]