Habitat sponsors second house in two years



Thomas Celona

Villanova’s Habitat for Humanity Campus Chapter celebrated its sponsorship of a second home with a ribbon cutting ceremony at the construction site in Norristown on Dec. 5. The official announcement of a house fully sponsored by Villanova’s Habitat committee comes less than two years after the group first sponsored a house.

Members of both Villanova’s Habitat committee and Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery County were on hand for the ceremony at the home located on Cherry Street. A red ribbon was draped over the front porch and was cut by committee members to indicate the official launch of construction. The home is an already existing two-story structure, but the entire interior requires extensive rehab before a family can move in.

Aside from the symbolic aspect of the event, important paperwork regarding the funding for the project was signed. Will Stehl, associate director of Campus Ministry and Habitat for Humanity Campus Chapter’s faculty adviser, and Brenda Egolf-Fox, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery County, signed an agreement that detailed the terms of the sponsorship.

“They will provide us with the opportunity to have a house to sponsor, to get our volunteers in there,” Stehl said of the agreement.

The document will also be signed by Frank Monaghan and a representative from State Farm, the two other principal financial contributors to the project. The ceremony culminated a long process of planning and fundraising that followed Villanova Habitat’s first fully sponsored house.On April 16, 2007, ground broke on construction for the first house, located in the Habitat community of Carriage Stone Homes on the corner of Green and Jacoby Streets in Norristown.

Villanova’s committee raised $15,000 for the project and partnered with the Patrick F. Monaghan Memorial Foundation and CitiBank for the remaining costs of the $60,000 project. Construction on that house concluded this fall, with a home dedication ceremony held on Oct. 25. A family moved into the home shortly before Thanksgiving, according to senior Linley Kirkwood, co-program coordinator of Villanova’s Habitat for Humanity Campus Chapter.

However, the committee did not wait for completion of the first project to begin planning a second house sponsorship.

“We started thinking about a second home as soon as we signed the paperwork for the first,” Kirkwood said. “Our goal has been to maintain a relationship with Montgomery County Habitat, so we knew we wanted to continue to build housing.”

After expressing interest in sponsoring a second home, the committee was informed of several possible options, but the Montgomery County chapter suggested the Cherry Street location, as it was the closest to Villanova, according to Kirkwood.

The committee set about fundraising using a variety of on-campus fundraisers, including book drives, Mass collections, Public Safety auctions and a partnership with the Balloon Day committee, along with receiving personal donations.

In addition to its own efforts, the committee received financial support from two main outside groups.

The Patrick F. Monaghan Memorial Foundation again agreed to contribute to the project, this time to the amount of $30,000.

Frank Monaghan, a ’78 alumnus, had a son named Patrick who died in a skiing accident at age 16 in 2003. Patrick had always enjoyed volunteer activities such as Habitat for Humanity, and the foundation was established in his name and regularly contributes to Habitat projects in the local area. The other financial contributor was State Farm.

“We applied for a $10,000 State Farm matching grant, and we were selected to receive that,” Kirkwood said.

The committee learned that they had received the grant on Nov. 5, which was a “pretty definitive” sign that they would be able to sponsor the second house, according to Kirkwood.

The committee’s ability to still sponsor the home comes in light of a significant rise in the cost of the project. The cost was originally estimated at $60,000, but the price tag was later increased to $90,000.However, the committee still raised the necessary funds to allow for the Dec. 5 ceremony.

“Currently, we have raised $40,000 of the $50,000 we’re going to contribute to the house,” Kirkwood said.

All of the money is not required up front, and the remainder will be raised during the construction process.

“We’re going to begin building as soon as we get back in January,” Kirkwood said.

The committee will be sending groups of Villanova volunteers to work on the house each Saturday during the upcoming semester. Stehl estimated that a project of this type could take between a year and two years to complete. Committee members said that this second house sponsorship has great benefits for both the program and the community at large.

“Even though there’s not as much pomp and circumstance as there was with the first house, for us as a chapter to be able to get a house two years after the first house is monumental,” Stehl said. “It allows us to go every week, and we can keep people involved and keep [the issues of housing and poverty] in their minds.”

Villanova’s efforts also have become a local standard for Habitat participation, Stehl said. As a result of the success of the Villanova program, Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery County has approached other local colleges, including Cabrini College and Arcadia University, about sponsoring homes, according to Stehl. Additionally, this house sponsorship significantly helps the Habitat for Humanity Campus Chapter’s overarching goals.

“Our long-term goal is to be continually sponsoring a house,” Kirkwood said.

Stehl said that he believes this step forward shows that this goal can become a reality more quickly than the committee had initially anticipated.

“What was initially monumental can now be regular,” he said.