Megann Horstead | For The Bugle
Joliet Catholic Academy student Michael Murray said finding a way to giveback to the community in a way that brings great meaning is very important to him. So when the idea arose to recruit classmates to start a campus chapter to help support Will County Habitat for Humanity, he took action to make it a reality.
“I actually thought of it as a perfect opportunity,” he said. “Years before, I went on a trip to Africa. [JCA teacher] Mark [Clarke] had been there. My mom being the executive director [of WCHFH], it struck me as a great way to serve.”
The work of the Will County chapter is driven by Habitat for Humanity’s international mission: “… safe, decent and affordable shelter plays an absolutely critical role in helping families to create a new cycle, one filled with possibilities and progress.”
“Our whole is idea with these, is that it is bringing the community together just with the volunteer experience,” WCHFH Executive Director Nicole Murray said. “It’s our job—as Mr. Clarke knows we’ve talked about—just making sure that when there is a project that they get the full experience.”
A WCHFH campus chapter is already established for students at Providence Catholic High School in New Lenox and another is forming at Plainfield East High School.
Clarke said the idea behind starting a group at JCA surfaced a little more than a year ago when Michael approached him about serving as a sponsor, and he thought it was a wonderful idea.
“It’s just a good opportunity for our kids to get out of school and volunteer, but not just volunteer piecemeal like many high schools have their students, you know have 20 hours,” he said. “This is with an international organization, and it’s more of an educational approach as [Nicole] was saying: students learn different steps, processes that Habitat has set up in their constitution for us to abide by.”
Clarke added, “Habitat for our chapter, like I said gives them a little more direction as to what they can do. There [are] a lot of different avenues they can go.”
When classes resume this fall, JCA’s campus chapter will typically begin meeting monthly.
Between Will County Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, neighborhood revitalization programs, home repair services, new construction and rehabs, there are many ways for students to get involved.
“There’s always opportunities, and we just find what’s the best fit for the students at the time,” Nicole said.
Michael said he is excited for the group to start meeting.
“I personally became intrigued because [WCHFH] gives hand-ups, not handouts,” he said. “[Houses] are given in aid to people in need, and they work for it. I don’t think they should be just given a house. Everyone needs a home. If you’re focused on finding shelter, that’s a key part in anyone’s life. That’s part of why I support Habitat for Humanity.”
To date, the JCA campus chapter has 52 students interested in volunteering.
“The kids are looking forward it,” Clarke said. “It’s gotten a lot of interest.”
Nicole agreed and said the early excitement generated for the campus chapter is easy to pinpoint.
“I think the biggest difference with volunteering or being part of a Habitat—there’s so many charities that you can support—but the one difference that Habitat brings is the whole experience and it’s so tangible,” she said. “If we talk specifically a home, you can see the shovel go in the ground, and the house is starting to be built, it’s framed, then you see the house completed, then you see a family move in.”
Over its 29 years, WCHFH has put 75 families into homes in Joliet, Crest Hill, Bolingbrook, Lockport and Plainfield
“Habitat, it’s a great brand,” Nicole said. “When you say Habitat, there’s not many people that don’t know what Habitat is… I think really because Habitat is such a great brand and knowing what we do.”
Michael said he is looking forward to serving WCHFW.
“We have a couple houses to break ground on,” he said.
To start a new Habitat for Humanity campus chapter, contact Ron Novak, assistant executive director, email@example.com.