Habitat for Humanity builds houses, character

Nihal Manjila, Contributing Reporter

This year, Case Western Reserve University’s own Habitat for Humanity chapter will be expanding more than ever before. With the upscaling of its first-year representative program and the addition of an international trip, the current academic year is looking to be Habitat’s best yet.

As an international organization, Habitat for Humanity constructs and renovates housing for those in need of permanent homes. Habitat for Humanity has four guiding pillars: direct service, fundraising, advocating and educating. The mission of Habitat is holistic because it helps both volunteers and families receiving aid.

CWRU is home to its own chapter of Habitat for Humanity. The organization works in conjunction with the Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity chapter to provide housing for local families and improve the community. An executive board of seasoned members coordinates the efforts of students to make an impact on the city and make meaningful change and experiences.

Habitat also hosts several events throughout the year in collaboration with other student groups on campus, among them its annual Super Nachos event in partnership with the Sigma Nu Fraternity to raise awareness about substandard housing and fundraise for the Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity. This year, Super Nachos raised $1,600 for the Greater Cleveland chapter, according to CWRU Habitat for Humanity Vice President and third-year student Rayanna Stevenson.   

Habitat held its annual kick-off meeting on Sept. 4, and featured a meet and greet with the executive board for new and returning members. The programming for the year was then announced: plans include weekly-to-biweekly weekend builds in the Greater Cleveland area and an international build in Trinidad and Tobago during winter break.

Every Saturday, around eight students from Habitat gather outside the Tinkham Veale University Center (TVUC) and are transported to a building site in the area to work on construction and renovation for most of their day. The sign-ups for these builds get filled up very quickly, with 50 to 60 students signing up for the weekend builds so far this year.

Habitat also offers a program for first-year representatives to shadow members of the executive board and learn how the club is run, ensuring the smooth transition of leadership from year to year. The number of first-year representatives this year increased significantly due to an increased interest in the club.

“Just a few years ago, we only had maybe three or four students apply to become student representatives,” fifth-year student Adam Erlichman, CWRU Habitat for Humanity President, said. “We accepted all of them. This year, we had six students get selected, and we had to turn down several worthy candidates.”

This year, a new addition to CWRU Habitat is a direct mentorship program. Each representative is paired up with a member of the executive board who handles their interest.

Erlichman spoke about the relatively long history of Habitat for Humanity at CWRU. As a volunteer who visited families affected by Hurricane Katrina, the president can certainly attest to the continued mission of the club.

“There are still messages between executive board members from years past,” said Erlichman. “The club may reach as far back as the ‘90s.”

Former students have shared stories with him on their experiences with the organization, all of whom value the memories made while helping other people. He said, “We do other small events for families too, like making house address signs for families that received new housing and helping customize their homes to really make it feel like their home.”  

Outside of build events and fundraising, the group also holds social events around campus to further the mission of volunteering and education that Habitat for Humanity embodies. The annual Doors event, where other student groups can pay to decorate a donated door and advertise their organization, is a highlight. The proceeds will then go towards Habitat for Humanity’s funding for builds and materials.

A new event this year is Haunted Housing. The event will include pumpkin carving, candy and a trick-or-treat game with Habitat for Humanity trivia, advancing the educational pillar of the organization.

Habitat is only growing from here. The CWRU Habitat for Humanity chapter will be hosting a regional conference for other chapters to attend from around the Midwest at TVUC this coming April. With all the new events and programs, there’s no denying that Habitat for Humanity will be making its mark this academic year.