Thursday, March 27, 2008

Illinois Sig Eps Do Habitat in a BIG Way

Habitat Community Build project under way in Fairhope
By Sheila Propp
Editor

FAIRHOPE, Ala. — This was no college frat party, but one out-of-state fraternity chapter was present in a big way. What was it? The start of Baldwin County Habitat for Humanity’s Community Build on Spring Run Road in Fairhope.

On St. Patrick’s Day last week, more than 100 folks swarmed over a residential slab off South Greeno Road to frame a Habitat house for a local family.

Among the participants were 60 members of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity who are also students at the University of Illinois; 20 students from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and 20-30 local volunteers, Stacey Jeffcoat, volunteer coordinator for Baldwin County Habitat for Humanity, said.

The students spent the remainder of the week working on the house.“These young men choose to spend their spring break working for Habitat,” Jeffcoat said. “The University of Illinois students were featured on the “Today” show last year for their volunteer work,” she said, adding the fraternity members had also done volunteer work in Miami and New Orleans.

These students not only donate their time and labor, they also hold fund-raisers and bring a cash donation for Habitat, Jeffcoat said. The UW group brought a check for $1,500, the UI Sig Eps, $8,700, she said.

All the students stayed at Beckwith Camp and Conference Center, which donated the housing, Jeffcoat said.

Feeding all these volunteers is also a community endeavor, she said. Habitat furnishes breakfast. She then named several in the community who were helping with lunches: Davis and Fields P.C., Firehouse Subs, Fairhope Kiwanis, five Sunday School classes from First Baptist Church of Fairhope and Ben and Linda Roussel. Other donations are welcome, she said, “we always need bottled water and Gatorade.”

The community build will result in a home for Danielle Gaskin and her five children: Alexis, 18; Kareerm, 17; Blake, 14; Trent, 10; and Mallory, 2. The finished product will be a 1,200-square-foot, four-bedroom, 1 1/2 bath home on Spring Run Road. If construction proceeds as planned, the family should be in the finished home in five or six weeks.

Gaskin, who currently lives in Daphne and works as a courier for the local daily newspaper, learned about Habitat a couple of years ago along with a friend, but was unable to attend a required meeting during the initial application and qualificaton period. The friend, who qualified for a Habitat home, encouraged her to apply again the next year.

“My best friend applied a year before me and now she will be my next door neighbor,” Gaskin said pointing to the house just east of her home site.

Gaskin, who must invest several hundred hours of “sweat equity” in the build, said she visited the construction site every day.“This is just a dream come true,” she said.

Right next door, a concrete slab awaits the launch of the Habitat Women’s Build, which will hold its frame day on March 29, Jeffcoat said.

For more information on Baldwin County Habitat for Humanity or to volunteer or make a donation, contact Jeffcoat at (251) 747-1567.