Posted on: June 26, 2014
Clarkson College students learn early on in their education the importance of service to individuals and families that are constrained by illness, poverty or other misfortunes. Year-round, they coordinate donation drives and fundraisers and make regular visits around the community to promote healthier lifestyles. One of their most recent endeavors was one they’d never before experienced. For three days, more than 130 students and faculty helped construct 10 new houses and restore two existing homes at the 7th annual Habitat for Humanity of Omaha Builders Blitz.
The blitz was held June 6–14 in the Kountze Park Neighborhood at 23rd & Laird Streets, and Clarkson College students and faculty were on-site June 9–11. Nine residential and commercial construction companies collaborated with Habitat Omaha on the building project—a seven-day effort that culminated with eight families (that met certain income criteria) becoming the homeowners of brand new Habitat houses, which average $125,000 in value and offer a 20–30 year, no-interest loan. The hope of this inspiring investment is to provide a home-owning opportunity for first-time buyers who otherwise wouldn’t qualify for a conventional loan, as well as to make neighborhoods safer and more aesthetically pleasing.
Although the Clarkson College volunteers were not expected to pour concrete or install subfloor panels, they did put on their hard hats, eyewear and gloves and made each step of the process easier for the professional builders. “One of our first duties was to help clean up each job site to get it ready for concrete and the graders that were coming,” said BSN student Kim Battreal, who also helped set up and maintain the recycling area.
While many worked to keep the building site clean, other volunteers, like BSN student Drew Kummer, aimed to destroy it. “I cut down trees, cleaned up a tree line [and] spent the rest of the day demoing out a house,” said Kummer. “I also helped tear the plaster and lath off the walls. The house was stripped down to the studs and completely remolded.”
Clarkson College students also staffed the first-ever on-site First Aid station at the Builders Blitz. They were on deck to provide treatment to any minor injuries the construction workers or volunteers faced.
Habitat Omaha chose the focus of this year’s Builders Blitz to be in the area of North 23rd Street after an analysis revealed an opportune mix there: low homeownership rates and high renovation and demolition needs; yet close proximity to a large elementary school and employer.
The Clarkson College volunteers expressed a consistency of fulfillment in being a part of the building project. “I met many caring individuals that gave up their precious time to help the families,” Battreal said. “As a nursing student, I have done many types of volunteer work, and this was such a different experience,” added Kummer. “The volunteers, students and faculty came together, and we were able to accomplish quite a bit of work.”
Many volunteers also agreed that the experience is one Clarkson College should continue to be a part of in the years ahead. “We [Clarkson College] have been a pillar to our community for health care needs for over 125 years,” Battreal said. “It only makes sense that we were a participant in this endeavor and should be in future ones.”
Check out photos from the 2014 Habitat for Humanity of Omaha Builders Blitz on the Clarkson College Facebook page. The gallery also contains a photo of the baskets filled with items donated by Clarkson College faculty and staff, which were presented to the eight familes at the home dedication ceremony on June 15.