Habitat finds a home



Kathleen Dooley

PHILADELPHIA – Fall break usually signals the end of a Habitat trip, but Sandra Castelli of Long Island couldn’t wait to go on another.

The following Saturday, she did.

Castelli is among the many University students finding out that Habitat for Humanity trips are not just for fall and spring break service trips. The once barely recognized Saturday Habitat trips sponsored by Campus Ministry are now drawing so many students that sign up sheets fill hours after being posted. The success can be attributed to a new steering committee for the group, which successfully co-sponsored a Habitat house with members from the St. Thomas of Villanova Parish.

According to junior Jenny Costa, Saturday Habitat communications coordinator, Noreen Cameron of Campus Ministry, presented the steering committee with the idea of co-sponsoring a run-down Philadelphia house last year.

“For our first house, we thought co-sponsoring with the parish was a really good idea,” Costa said, stating that the sponsorship entails raising approximately $45,000. “There is no way we’d be able to do that in a year and there was no way the parish could do that.”

So far, the group is more than halfway there. The parish has contributed $15,000, Augustinian priests have contributed $5,000, and two separate anonymous donors have contributed $5,000 and $2,000 respectively. However, the steering committee still needs to raise $18,000.

Costa stated that this money will be used to pay for the land and for the supplies used to refurbish the house.

The steering committee already has two major fund-raising ideas for this year. While the specifics are not yet worked out, the committee is planning to hold a spaghetti dinner reunion for all fall break Habitat trips later in the semester. “We think the people who’ve gone on Habitat trips will be receptive to us because they know how hard it is to raise money for something like this,” Costa said.

In addition, the steering committee will also sponsor a Valentine’s Day fund-raiser, where parents can purchase candy or balloons to be sent to their children in February.

The house, which is located on Colorado Street in South Philadelphia, was extremely run-down when the steering committee first saw it at the end of the last academic year. Since then, however, official Habitat employees and Americorps and Habitat volunteers have worked with the University students and St. Thomas parishioners to improve the house. “The house is definitely going to be finished by the end of this school year,” Costa said.

According to Costa, the steering committee hopes that this will be the first ofa number of houses that the Saturday group can sponsor. “Because this is our first year doing this, it’s going to be our hardest sponsorship,” she said. “In the future, we’ll have people who are trained in doing this, so they’ll know more of the ground rules.”

Because Saturday Habitat has become so increasingly popular in the past few months, volunteers are usually restricted to one trip per semester. However, Costa stated that those who are not selected for trips can help in other ways. “We are all about encouraging people who don’t get on a trip to help us fundraise,” she said.

Unlike the week-long break habitat trips, which require each member to donate $100 of their trip costs to the national Habitat for Humanity organization, Saturday trips are free of charge.