Most students use their time during Spring Break to catch up on sleep, spend time with friends and family, or simply go to the beach to relax and work on their tan.

But a group of students on campus opt instead to travel to a different state and work on building houses for those in need. They spend the week constantly working, making new friends and enjoying the little bit of spring sun.

These students are part of the University’s chapter of the international nonprofit Habitat for Humanity. According to UR chapter president and  junior Taryn Amatruda, “[Habitat for Humanity] works toward building decent, affordable housing for the people that need it.” For each house that they build, Habitat volunteers are joined by the future recipients of their work who put in up to 400 hours of sweat equity to make their new homes a reality.

“We’re just an affiliate,” Amatruda explained. “We work with Flower City Habitat for Humanity, which is the Rochester [branch]. We go on builds [and] do a lot with them.” The two groups work together often and have put on a variety of events including a homeowner’s picnic last week.

On campus, Habitat holds many fundraising events throughout the year. “We try and work towards cosponsoring a house, which is $10,000,” Amatruda said. The money they raise goes towards buying components like supplies, toilets, doors, and the like. These are the types of items that can’t get donated, and by purchasing them new, groups like the one at UR can become a cosponsor.

Some of the money raised also goes towards Habitat’s spring break trip – “a week of just building a few houses with other schools that go down,” Amatruda explains. The week consists mostly of building days, along with a day off to go to the beach. Amatruda noted that the spring break trip allows their group to work on a house continuously, rather than work one Saturday a month like they do in Rochester.

The work that UR Habitat does is made possible by the fundraising they do on campus. “We do three fundraisers each semester, and our biggest one is Shack-A-Thon,” sophomore and fundraising chair Lesley Mah said. Shack-A-Thon, taking place this year on Thursday, Sept. 26, focuses on promoting homelessness awareness by tasking participants to build a “house” out of cardboard.

According to sophomore co-fundraising chair Shelby Strasser, after paying $20, teams of four to six students “initially get five or six boxes and can get more boxes ($2.50 per additional box), and they sleep in them over night to experience what it’s like to be homeless in Rochester. We encourage them to donate more money because the better the shack, the better chance of getting prizes.” The event also includes lots of food and entertainment.

“We make a really good impact on campus,” Amatruda said. “People definitely come out and check it out and we get lots of donations and teams the day of… [Shack-A-Thon] makes a statement on campus.”

Battle of the Bands is another fundraiser started by UR Habitat last year in which seven student groups perform. Strasser explains that a jar was assigned to each band, and audience members bought tickets to put in their favorite band’s jar. At the end of the competition, the band with the most tickets won. “It’s cool to appreciate the student groups on campus,” Amatruda said. “I think we’ll try to do it again.”

Other fundraisers that Mah and Strasser started last year include the “Sweet Treat” event and the “Finals Baskets” raffle. The gingerbread house fundraiser is one of its most well-attended.

“It’s really a family event,” Strasser said, noting that professors often join their students in the fun.

Habitat also participates in community service events that don’t involve building houses. According to sophomore Nick Poulton, the group volunteers at Habitat Store, where people donate lightly used goods, and those who are in need go and buy these things for cheap. The club also volunteers for Ronald McDonald house, where they cook breakfast for parents whose children are in hospitals. All the money raised in the store goes toward building houses.

This year, UR Habitat is hoping to cosponsor events with other groups on campus. Habitat is supporting Students Helping Honduras’ “Kicks for Kids” soccer tournament as well as the Japanese Students Association Omatsuri Festival.

“We’re being supportive of other groups on campus this year because we get lots of support from them,” Amatruda said.

Habitat is an incredibly hardworking organization and each member is dedicated to better serving the community of Rochester.

Kanakam is a member of the class of 2017.



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