By Julia Ferrante
LEWISBURG, Pa. – For years, Bucknell and Susquehanna university students have had an informal competition to raise funds for Habitat for Humanity.
This year, the campus chapters, both affiliated with Union-Snyder Habitat for Humanity, joined forces and shared ideas to raise a collective $20,000 – enough to co-sponsor the construction of a new house in New Columbia.
Working together, the students were able to collect much more than they could on their own, said Allison Miles, a fourth-year chemistry major and co-president of the Bucknell Habitat chapter.
"Bucknell has annually done Trick or Treat for Change," said Miles, referring to a door-to-door Halloween drive in which students ask Lewisburg residents for donations to Habitat rather than candy."This year we extended it to Selinsgrove."
About two dozen student volunteers from Bucknell and Susquehanna also are assisting in construction of the home for the partner family: Virginia and Alberto Lopez and their children, Angela, 4, and Nathaniel, 1. Building began in mid-March. A ceremonial groundbreaking was held Saturday.
Bucknell and Susquehanna students also helped with family selection and conducting interviews and home visits, said Jim Kazakavage, chairman of the Union-Snyder Habitat home selection committee. The Lopezes, who were among 40 interested families and eight applicants, are the 17th family to partner with the Union-Snyder affiliate.
Alberto Lopez, a service advisor at a local car dealership, said the 1,000-square-foot, three-bedroom, ranch-style house will provide more space for his growing family but "the same loving environment" as their current home in Lewisburg.
"We will do our best to fulfill our obligation for this home," he said at Saturday's groundbreaking.
Habitat's goal is to fulfill the dream of home ownership with simple, basic homes for families in need, noted Cherie King, president of the Union-Snyder Habitat affiliate. Families must be able to pay a no-interest mortgage and commit to 250 hours of "sweat equity," either by helping with construction of their own home or working on future affiliate projects. They also must complete a home ownership course.
"They become taxpayers, homeowners and neighbors," King said. "This is not a handout. It is a hand up."
It costs about $75,000 to build a Habitat home. The family will pay back Habitat through an interest-free mortgage, and the payments will be put into the Fund for Humanity to be used for future home construction. Volunteers will do the majority of labor to build the home.
The Bucknell campus chapter, formed in 1993, has sponsored a home in the past, but only after two years of fundraising.
The "Trick or Treat for Change" fundraiser also helped Susquehanna raise twice as much as it has in years past, said Eric Lassahn, Habitat's campus liaison and the director of the Center for Civic Engagement at Susquehanna University.
Susquehanna University's Center for Civic Engagement recently named the Union-Snyder affiliate the Community Partner of the Year 2008-2009 for the affiliate's effort to have both universities work together on Habitat projects and fundraisers. The award honors a community partner that has made "significant and meaningful efforts to engage Susquehanna University students in service projects with their organization."
Bucknell and Susquehanna students will continue to work together on another successful Bucknell Habitat fundraiser April 25. The Rubber Duck Derby is held during the Lewisburg Arts Festival on Bull Run Creek. Participants sponsor rubber ducks racing down the creek.
The Bucknell chapter and Union-Snyder Habitat also are looking for local families willing to open their homes as "bed and breakfast" accommodations during Family Weekend in September. Those interested may call Union-Snyder Habitat for Humanity at 570-374-2437.
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