Elon students honor Martin Luther King Jr. with Habitat for Humanity build

The MLK Student Build: Habitat for Humanity was one of many events organized in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day by Elon.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” King dedicated his life to the well-being of others. And days after a winter storm, with the ground still covered in the snow and ice, Elon students put the welfare of others above their own as they volunteered for the Habitat for Humanity: MLK Student Build.

Elon University students Emily Cozzone ’25 gets some instruction and assistance from Habitat for Humanity builder Billy Graves, left, as they install drywall Wednesday, January 19, 2022, at a home being built on Myrtle Drive in Graham.

The Habitat build is a part of several events organized by Elon University during the week of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in honor of the civil rights activist and was made possible through a partnership between the Elon Volunteers! organization within the Kernodle Center for Civic Life and Habitat for Humanity of Alamance County.

It’s one of two Habitat builds this week, with Elon faculty and staff volunteering on Friday with the organization.

Each year the Elon University Habitat for Humanity campus chapter sponsors the construction of a house in the Alamance County area, with the effort including fundraising as well as encouraging student volunteers to work at the building site to get first-hand community-building experience.

“Volunteering was always something I’ve wanted to do,” said Emily Cozzone ’25, an elementary education major. “I was excited when I heard that there was an opportunity to do it.”

Danielle DaSilva ’24 worked on several volunteer projects in high school and was looking forward to participating with the MLK Student Build last year before it was canceled. Going forward, she hopes to do more volunteering.

Elon University students Danielle DaSilva ’24 gets some instruction from Habitat for Humanity builder Billy Graves as they install drywall at a home being built on Myrtle Drive in Graham.

With the habitat build being a part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemorative events, DaSilva said it is important that everyone engage in some self-reflection to see how they can best support their community.

“I think it’s easy when you come from a more privileged place to forget about the issues in the world. So, I think that when you have the opportunity to help out, you should do so,” DaSilva said.

Micah McCravey has been assistant construction manager for Habitat for Humanity of Alamance County since July 2021. In that time, he’s been a part of two builds and wishes he could do more volunteer work. The process of seeing others come together to work for a collective cause for a stranger is something that is the most significant part for McCravey, and representative of what King stood for.

“We rely on the volunteer help, especially with big work like this. We couldn’t do it without them,” McCravey said.

Cecil Lee Cohen Jr. directly understands the benefits of the Habitat for Humanity program, as he became a homeowner thanks to the organization. He decided to return the help that was given to him by volunteering for the build.

A habitat for Humanity home being built in Graham.

Written on the wooden framework of the home are messages of encouragement and endearment, a tradition of Habitat builds. This is a prime example of how the community unites for the betterment of others and continues what King spent his life fighting for.

“Habitat for Humanity has been a great experience for me, being able to pay it forward and actually help people I don’t know means a lot to me,” Cohen said.

The theme for the 2022 MLK Day celebrations is “Embodying the Four Basic Steps of a Non-Violent Campaign,” based on King’s 1963 Letter from Birmingham Jail. The four steps – a collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive, negotiation, self-purification and direct action – are used as guides for the week of events which aim to provide opportunities to “make the invisible visible” and advance the intersectional understanding of racism, classism and other injustices.

The remaining 2022 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration events, hosted by the Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education, can be found here.