Habitat builds in honor of MLK day

“This week, Habitat is having builds because there is a push to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a day on, not off,” said senior Nicholas Bell, the president of IU’s Habitat for Humanity chapter.

Meagan Niese, development director for Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County, said the builds are special because she thinks giving back to the community provides people a way to honor King’s legacy. Habitat also brings together volunteers of diverse backgrounds, Niese said.

“I think it can be a very special picture of Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream,”
Niese said.

During the two-day build, volunteers will be working on three homes that are currently under construction. The project will last from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Those interested in volunteering can sign up at monroecountyhabitat.org.

IU’s chapter doesn’t build houses on its own, but works in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County.

“We provide the muscle they need and help them fundraise,” Bell said.

The IU chapter has fundraising activities throughout the year, including Rake-A-Thon in the fall.

 Participants rake the yards of Bloomington residents in exchange for donations to Habitat for Humanity. Habitat raised almost $4,000 from last semester’s Rake-A-Thon. Habitat also has a bike ride and five-kilometer run at other times during the
school year. 

Families have to meet certain criteria to receive a house built by Habitat. The family has to have a need for housing and must be able to pay their interest-free mortgage. Every adult who will be living in the house must put in 250 “sweat equity hours.”

This involves the adults working on their own houses, as well as attending education classes that teach them how to better handle their money.

“They want families that want to help themselves,” Bell said.

Junior Mike Dits, one of the chairs of fundraising, said every family is overjoyed because of drasticially improved living circumstances.

“Habitat says it’s a hand up, not a hand-out,” Dits said.  
IU’s chapter received a grant this year that it will put toward building homes this fall. In Monroe County, Habitat has a zero-percent foreclosure rate. Habitat finds contractors and volunteers and makes sure the houses are safe.

If a hurricane went through Bloomington, the only houses left standing would be the ones built by Habitat, Bell said. When the houses are completed, the house is dedicated to the family.

“It really gives you perspective,” Bell said. “It’s really life-changing. I actually feel like I’m helping someone else.”

Habitat is having a call-out meeting at 8 p.m. Jan. 23.

“We’re always trying to grow up membership,” Dits said.

Niese said the best part of Habitat is being able to work with the families.

“The volunteers literally get to work alongside the future homeowners,” she said. “It’s always one of the most rewarding parts of my job. It’s a very personal way of volunteering, and I really enjoy getting to see how empowered our homeowners are.”  

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