March 09, 2012

Students install siding at a house in Ablemarle, N.C. in March 2011

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LEWISBURG, Pa. - Last spring, the Office of Communications asked Jordan Makansi, a civil engineering and music double major, to keep a journal during the Habitat for Humanity student service trip to Albemarle, N.C.

The Habitat campus chapter plans a yearly trip to a different part of the United States to build houses for families in need. This year, a group is going to Morgantown, W.Va. || See related story

In March 2011, about 20 students and two chaperones spent a week installing siding, painting doors and constructing a deck on a three-bedroom house for a local family in need. Staying in a local church, the group also bonded with volunteers and took some time for hiking and bowling.

Here are some excerpts from Makansi's account:

Sunday, March 13
Gorgeous day for traveling!! Our group of 20 students and staff chaperones Ron Marquette and John Cummins met at the Chi Phi fraternity parking lot at 7:30 a.m., and we were off by 7:42 a.m. We were making great time and reached the halfway point of our trip at noon, but after lunch, our luck turned. Our directions said to turn on Albemarle Road, but we soon discovered that before it becomes Albemarle, the road is called Troy Road, Biscoe Road, Route 24/27 and Route 109.

We managed to find our way to the church in Albemarle, where we will be staying this week, and met our hosts from the Stanly County Habitat for Humanity affiliate. The church is big, nice and has GREAT facilities! Larry Emerick, the affiliate's construction coordinator, and Cemita Gibbs, the executive director, thanked us for coming to help build. They will set us with many free meals in exchange for our work, making our trip a lot less expensive.

I was thoroughly impressed with the church. There's a movie-style theater, a gymnasium and a kitchen, and the room where they hold services is pretty. We settled in then headed out for some food at a local restaurant, Little Tokyo. We were tired after our 10-hour drive so stayed in and watched a movie.

Monday, March 14
A hearty breakfast is served every morning from 6:15 to 7:15 in the gymnasium: eggs, cereal, doughnuts, coffee, fruit and milk. Then, off to the building site at 8:15 a.m. Larry, the Habitat construction coordinator, led us to the building site and gave us a quick tour and overview of the house, which has three bedrooms and a large kitchen. He set us up in groups of five or six people and assigned us jobs such as laying siding, building the deck or painting doors. I was on the team that installed the insulation. Work was fun, and we have a very enthusiastic group.

At 11:30 a.m., we went to lunch at Cici's Pizza, then back to work! Everyone was tired by 2:30 p.m., so Larry gave us the go-ahead to leave. When we got back to the church, we found we had more energy, so went to a park to play soccer.

We had dinner at El Ranchito, a Mexican place recommended by one of the locals. The owner of the restaurant asked me what we were doing and where we were from. Being in a small town, we get a considerable amount of interest and attention. Having locals interested in what we are doing is great because it gives us a sense of appreciation for community service.

Tuesday, March 15
Today is our day off!! It's nice that this day is earlier in the week, because it means that we get some more bonding time as a group before we continue building. The day was off to somewhat of an embarrassing start, though. I had to be awakened by Cemita at 6:50 a.m. so I could make a speech to a group of middle and high school students. I threw on some clothes and splashed water on my face then got on stage. A youth group mentor introduced me as a representative of the 14th seed Bucknell basketball team because the Bison were about to play in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The theme of the week was "life's journey," so I talked about how building a house is like the journey of life, and stressed the importance of having a strong foundation for the house, i.e. doing well in school to make a life's journey enjoyable.

I woke the others at 10 a.m. so we could go hiking at a nearby state park. The hike was exhausting, but worth the effort for an incredible mountaintop view. After that, we went to the park for more soccer and Frisbee then dinner: lasagna from an Italian restaurant, and bowling. After that, everyone was really tired, so we went back to the church and straight to bed.

Wednesday, March 16
Everyone was excited to get back at work after our day off. We got lots of painting done, installed siding and insulation, worked on window measurements, cut wood for window panes and helped construct a deck. Larry brought us lunch, and we continued to work until 2 p.m.

The weather was so nice, we organized a soccer game then Frisbee, followed by dinner at the church. To show our gratitude to our hosts, Nate Deysher '13, Mike Pressl '12 and I played the piano, and the church pastor introduced me to the congregation. I realized this was my chance to tell everyone how grateful we were for having such a nice, comfortable and clean place to stay.

We really feel part of the community. After dinner, some of us sang with the choir and others attended a talk about religions around the world. I was proud of our group for participating in the activities. A little while later, Ron, our chaperone, asked to see me. My first thought was that I was in trouble. But it turned out that Yanjka Tseveensuren '13 had found an eye doctor who was willing to help me. Yanjka told him one of my contact lenses had ripped while I was working on the building site. He took me to his office down the road and gave me free contact lenses.

Ron Marquette, one of our chaperones and an avid bicycler, also felt welcomed when he was invited to participate in a bike race Friday. We are experiencing true "southern hospitality."

Thursday, March 17
We worked hard all morning on the interior doors, windows and painting. I have given up trying to keep my clothes clean. I had fun painting my clothing and so did others. I think it is evidence of working hard, having paint on your jacket, shoes and pants.

At night, we watched the Bucknell vs. University of Connecticut game at a sports bar. Despite the team's loss, we had a great time, and Jin On '12 and Alex Clayton '12 sang karaoke after.

Friday, March 18
Just as we were getting settled into the community, it was our last full day. We got as much done as possible on the house, including caulking, flooring, tarring and more door installations. A news reporter came by to ask a few questions and take pictures. It was a bittersweet feeling leaving the house, Larry, Cemita and the others that night. Larry expressed how thankful he was for us to do enough work to get the family in the house almost three months early.

After more enjoying the weather with kickball and soccer we watched Ron in the 20-mile bike race around town. Considering he was building houses all week, he did very well, and he definitely had the most fans, since all 22 of us were cheering for him.

Some of us were intent on getting some delicious southern barbeque before leaving N.C. After that, we went roller skating. A girl bravely came up to me and introduced herself at the roller rink, saying that she remembered my speech from Tuesday morning. It was heartwarming. Soon after that, we were too exhausted to do anything else and went back to the church to sleep.

Saturday, March 19
We cleaned until the church was spotless then piled into the cars, said goodbye, and left. While we were glad we would be able to sleep in our own beds that night, we also knew we would miss the church and all the southern hospitality and generosity of Albemarle.

Interviews and editing by Julia Ferrante

Contact: Division of Communications