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The Habitat Experience

I didn't wake up early on Labor Day expecting to get my hands dirty, but I quickly found out that there was more to covering a Habitat for Humanity story than just taking pictures.

Students work together to clean a build site.

I had been assigned as part of my job here at BCnow to travel with the Habitat for Humanity group to their Labor Day service project build site and take pictures and get quotes for this story. After only being there for five minutes, my purpose for being there changed drastically. They needed all the help they could get, and I was able bodied and had nothing to do for a few hours.

Blues music blasting from a portable stereo placed on a nearby picnic table gave the area a "down south" feel, and made the work a lot easier. "Kinda reminds you of New Orleans," said Hans Burkholder, Berea's student director of Habitat for Humanity. "You know that house right down there, the blue one," pointed out Terry, the construction supervisor; "shortly after it was finished, a family from Mississippi moved in there after Hurricane Katrina."

I was amazed at the work these people were doing, students and Americorps workers alike. I had written stories about Berea's Habitat chapter before, but this was the first time I'd ever gone with them to a build site, much less worked with them.

Burkholder, and I were put to work loading up trash and moving wood into piles to be burned later. Burkholder called it "grunt" work, though it was still important and something that had to get done. "The work we did is a very real, very necessary part of the larger work that Habitat for Humanity does. You just got a taste of the tough work… the grunt work," he said.

The small subdivision, called Hope Estates, has big plans ahead. Only one street now, the hopes are that the houses will wrap around with a green-space in the middle. Burkholder said, "It's been interesting to watch it grow, to see new families move in."

While I did not plan to get my hands dirty on labor day, it was nice to contribute to the growth of this prospering community.

Habitat for Humanity is a non-profit Christian organization designed to alleviate poverty housing by building and renovating houses for homeless people and families in need.

Berea College started its own chapter for Habitat for Humanitiy in 1990. Since then, groups from Berea have built houses from New York to South Carolina and beyond. Volunteers are not only busy during spring break, but also during the year, building and renovating local houses.

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