Elon Volunteers! honors Martin Luther King Jr. with Habitat for Humanity build

The Day of Service Project, which was a collaboration between Elon Volunteers! and Habitat for Humanity of Alamance County, was part the university's month-long Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.

Elon students and staff honored the life and legacy of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. on Friday while they worked to help provide a home for a local family in need.

The group helped with the construction of a Habitat for Humanity home in Burlington, North Carolina, during the university’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service Project on Jan. 10. The event was a collaboration between Elon Volunteers!, the campus service organization housed in the Kernodle Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement, and Habitat for Humanity of Alamance County.

A student hammers away at a roof truss before it is installed on the Habitat for Humanity home.

About a dozen students and staff installed roof trusses on a house in Apple Tree Village, an affordable new home community that currently includes 10 Habitat houses. They worked alongside lead construction supervisor James Hunter and other Habitat crew members.

Habitat projects like this one offer students the opportunity to work side-by-side with the recipients of the homes they build, creating memorable experiences for volunteers and local families alike.

This was the third Habitat build for Lydia Masri ’20, a computer science major who says each project has been meaningful.

“With everything going on in the world, it’s really easy to be worried and not know what to do about it,” she said. “So I think small ways like this of getting out there and really doing something is empowering.”

Organizers say volunteers like Masri make these projects possible, as 75 percent of labor for each build is provided by people donating their time to a good cause.

Volunteers deliver a roof truss to be installed on the Habitat home.

“The siding is put on by volunteers, the roof is put on by volunteers, the sheetrock is put up by volunteers, the painting and all of that,” said Cathy Lamb, associate executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Alamance County. “So it’s crucial that we have volunteers, and having the students helps to create a sense of service in them.”

The Elon Habitat for Humanity campus chapter formed during the 1988-89 academic year, becoming one of the earliest chapters to be chartered by the national organization. The chapter, which was a first step toward what would be become the eventual creation of the Elon Volunteers! effort, strives to raise awareness of housing insecurity and work toward providing affordable housing in Alamance County. Since the chapter’s inception, volunteers have completed more than two dozen homes in Alamance County.

“It’s a great thing for students to come in and know that they’re improving the community where they’re working and studying,” Lamb said. “They care that people have good housing here, so it’s inspiring to me to see them come out and work so hard.”

The Jan. 10 Habitat build was one of several events included in Elon’s 2020 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration hosted by the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity Education. The series of events is meant to celebrate the civil rights icon’s contributions to society through discussions, service projects and other programs throughout the month of January.

“That’s why we wanted to come out to help with this project,” said psychology major Madeleine Forti ’20. “I really admire Martin Luther King as a historical figure because of all the change he made and his perseverance in his work and the intentionality in his work. I try to be that way in my own life, and so I wanted to give back in his honor.”

The theme of the 2020 MLK Celebration is “The American Dream,” inspired by King’s essay of the same name presented at Drew University on Feb. 5, 1964. In the speech, King cites racism, segregation, discrimination and violence as major deterrents to actualizing the American Dream for all. The goal of each event is to advance the theoretical understanding of racism and explore its impact with the hope that this knowledge builds the capacity of participants to dismantle racism in all facets of modern society.

For a full list of 2020 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration events, click here.

New Employee Volunteering Opportunity

Elon and Habitat for Humanity of Alamance County have recently strengthened their partnership by adding a new volunteer opportunity for Elon employees. The Employee Volunteer Program has been expanded to include Habitat for Humanity as an additional partner with which staff and faculty can use volunteer hours.

Doug Purnell (right) of the Staff Advisory Council helps install roof trusses during the Jan. 10 Habitat for Humanity build.

Doug Purnell, database architect and head of the Staff Advisory Council’s staff involvement subcommittee, says the council is already working to schedule two Habitat for Humanity builds for staff members this spring.

“I do see these events as really good team-building,” Purnell said. “You might be able to interact with students, staff and faculty around campus that you might not always interact with. Fellowship is important and builds relationships. My hope is we can build connections across campus.”

To offer suggestions to the Staff Advisory Council, visit the organization’s “Be Heard” page.