HADLEY, Mass. – Members of the NESCAC Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) gathered in Amherst, Mass. on Sunday, April 15, to help construct a house with Habitat from Humanity. A total of 13 student-athletes and administrators representing Amherst, Trinity, Tufts and Wesleyan from sports such as basketball, cross country, soccer, and track and field gathered for the afternoon build at the Stanley Street site in Amherst.
The Habitat for Humanity project is the result of a combined effort between the Pioneer Valley Habitat chapter and Amherst College, the first of its kind in the history of Habitat for Humanity. Amherst donated three acres for the purpose of constructing four houses over the next four years, while Habitat will provide a zero-interest mortgage to the family. Construction began in the fall of 2006 on the first 1,300-sq foot house, which will be for Kathy Perry and her daughter Rachel.
While the wet and chilly weather outside made many think that winter had returned to New England, the student-athletes braved the elements and traveled from across the region to lend a hand working on the interior of the house on Sunday for four hours. Of the 13 individuals that participated, only one had ever worked with Habitat for Humanity previously, and few, if any, had any experience in home construction or repair. After a quick lunch of pizza and brief orientation meeting with the site coordinator from Habitat, the SAAC members grabbed nail aprons and began working on their project for the day, the installation of the second floor ceiling.
Upon reaching the second floor, the NESCAC SAAC members split up into two groups and partnered with the volunteer contractors and coordinators from Habitat to begin working on the three bedrooms and full bathroom on the second floor. The contractors explained to the SAAC members how to measure and cut the drywall that would be used in the ceiling construction before handing the student-athletes the tools to get the job done. As some members of each team measured and cut drywall to fit the specifications of the ceiling, others were ready to lift the drywall into place before fastening it to the clapboard.
As the student-athletes worked on the second floor, they had the opportunity to meet and interact with the soon-to-be owner Kathy Perry. Perry, who has resided in an apartment complex for nearly 30 years, described the entire experience as "a miracle" and shared stories and laughs with the SAAC members about her daughter Rachel. Perry spoke with joy about having a house for the first time in her life and the green innovations the dwelling would have, including a tankless water heater and solar panels on the roof. Perry was excited for the opportunity that her daughter would have to ride around the rural neighborhood on her bike and that plans were already in the works for a garden on their near-acre plot. Before the activities for the day were completed, Perry posed for a picture to include in her scrapbook of the house with the student-athletes.
By the end of the day, the student-athletes had completed most of the major ceiling components in the three bedrooms and some intricate parts of the bathroom ceiling. The Habitat coordinators expressed to the SAAC members that they were impressed with the student-athletes' ability to work together as a team and complete a challenging task in such a short time with little to no experience. As the Habitat members thanked the group for their hard work and for sharing lunch with them, the student-athletes left the house not only with smiles on their faces but also with the knowledge that they had helped a family come closer to realizing the goal of owning their own home.