‘Nova sponsors Habitat house

Ally Taylor

The Saturday Habitat Steering Committee celebrated the first Habitat for Humanity House fully sponsored by Villanova on Monday in Norristown as a part of Act! Speak! Build! Week on campus. Originally, a ground-breaking ceremony was scheduled, but rain, snow and high winds kept the festivities indoors.

The committee, which has been planning to sponsor a house since spring 2005, began fundraising last June and raised most of the money in the fall, said senior Denise DiMeglio, the student program coordinator.

“When we first started, I never in a million years thought we’d raise the money so quickly and see the house being built,” she said. “I thought we’d be able to put a few nails in, and that’s it.”

After the committee raised $15,000, the Patrick F. Monaghan Foundation, which actively supports Habitat for Humanity in other local counties, agreed to match whatever the students could raise.

Citibank then agreed to match their contributions, combining for the totaled $60,000 needed to build a Habitat home in Norristown, according to the Montgomery County Habitat for Humanity Web site.

The committee members first took their idea of sponsoring a house to University President Rev. Peter Donohue, O.S.A., and presented the plan to the Board of Trustees, receiving applause for their efforts and the support of the administration, as well as of many alumni.

Currently, Saturday Habitat plans five or six trips to three local sites in Philadelphia, Delaware and Chester counties, allowing around 40 volunteers to help out each semester.

Sponsoring a house will allow the committee to plan trips to the Villanova house almost every Saturday, in addition to the other three sites, DiMeglio said.

DiMeglio added that the committee hopes to have an annual goal of sponsoring one house per year. While she admitted that this is a lofty aspiration, she said that the committee has already raised one-fourth of the money necessary to sponsor a second house.

Monday’s ceremony kicked off the creation of Carriage Stone Homes, a Habitat community consisting of five townhouses – one of which is the Villanova-sponsored home – located on the corner of Green and Jacoby Streets in Norristown.

Members of Habitat for Humanity, the local government and local patrons recognized the University’s efforts as well as the sponsor of the other houses in the project, including Rohm and Haas and the Genuardi Family Foundation, whose monetary donations totaled around $500,000.

Donohue gave a short speech and said a blessing for the project and those involved with it. He also commended the determination of the Habitat committee members to follow through on their idea. “It was something they wanted to do, and they got it done,” he said in an interview later. “I think they impressed a lot of those people up there.”

Building will begin on the Carriage Stone project in May, after receiving all of the necessary building permits.

The ceremony was one of several events and activities planned throughout this week as a part of the first Villanova edition of Habitat’s international Act! Speak! Build! Week to raise awareness.

Habitat committee members passed out fact sheets on the organization and poverty housing and encouraged students to write letters to their local government representatives concerning the housing issue, particularly in the Gulf region following Hurricane Katrina, DiMeglio said. They began on Tuesday and will continue through today.

In addition, Lisa Nickerson of Habitat International spoke last night about the importance of the organization within communities.

wA Cardboard City will be organized today in the Quad at 3 p.m. for students to understand what it is like to be homeless.

Having unofficially nicknamed the project “One House Villanova,” after the One Book Villanova project designed to unite the University community by reading and exploring issues in a specific book, DiMeglio said she hopes that the committee’s work will aim to serve the same objective.