ISU's helping hands build Habitat home

March 27 2006

Spring break is normally a quiet time on the campus of Indiana State University, but not this year. The College of Technology was filled with the ringing of hammers, buzzing of saws and cheering of volunteers as the walls of Terre Haute's 51st Habitat for Humanity were put together.

More than 180 faculty and staff, and students who had forgone a typical spring break, volunteered for the project.

ISU supported the building of the Habitat House in conjunction with the city's annual April observance of Human Rights Day.

"The focus of Human Rights Day this year is poverty, hunger and homelessness," said Nancy Brattain Rogers, director of ISU's Center for Public Service and Community Engagement, "so Habitat seemed like a good link there."

The Center for Public Service and Community Engagement coordinated the effort, together with the College of Technology, the Office of Student Activities and Organizations, the Support Staff Council, the Office of Alumni Affairs, and Facilities Management.

"One of the things we do at Indiana State is give back to the community," said ISU President Lloyd Benjamin III. "We want to be very engaged in the community. I think creating a home for a family is one of the best expressions of community."

Kicking off construction of the home was a Nail Driving Ceremony on March 7, with President Benjamin, Provost Jack Maynard, faculty, staff, students and the family who will live in the Habitat home.

The walls were framed in the Construction Technology Lab during spring break, with Bruce Dallman, associate dean and director of the Ph.D. in Technology Management program at ISU, overseeing construction. With his expert management and willing volunteers, construction ran ahead of schedule the entire week.

"We've been flying," Dallman said. "I can't keep them busy enough."

When finished, the walls were moved to the permanent location on the city's south side where the structure is being completed and will serve as the home of Holly Wolfe and her three young children.

Wolfe is working right alongside the ISU community, contributing 275 sweat equity hours to the project.

Wolfe says that sometimes, working 40 hours a week still isn't enough to provide a decent home for a family of four.

"Habitat is amazing," she said. "We don't make enough money, so this is a blessing. It's a very good opportunity to grow, to have a foundation, to get better."

Leslie Steigmeyer, construction management student from Terre Haute, gave up some of her spring break to lend a hand and share her expertise.

"I've had experience in this before and I enjoy helping out," Steigmeyer said. "It's fun for me."

ISU students learn important life-skills by participating in projects such as this, says Charles Norman, ISU associate professor of sociology.

"The great thing about this project is that it gives students an opportunity to apply so many of their skills in technology, marketing, advocacy and community building and do something good at the same time," Norman said. "Everyone who works on this project will know that that they have made a difference, and that is an empowering experience."

Career Center staff member Neal Wagner took the week of spring break off and devoted several of those days to framing walls in the Construction Lab. With the Habitat home being built on his doorstep, Wagner wanted to take advantage of this unique opportunity.

"I've always wanted to do it and this is the first time I've really had a good opportunity, since the university is sponsoring it," he said.

The ISU community has raised more than $13,000 toward the cost of the home, through the efforts of several fundraisers on campus and in the greater Terre Haute area.

Michael Longest, director of Wabash Valley Habitat for Humanity, said that the "Bowl-A-Thon" sponsored by the Support Staff Council was the single largest fundraiser for a Habitat house.

"Volunteers are the lifeblood of our entire program," Longest said, "but when you can get an organization like Indiana State faculty, staff and students to take on a project like this, it's just an incredible experience for our organization."

Wolfe and her children are counting the days until they can call the work-in-progress "home."

"I really think it's amazing," Wolfe said. "There are so many people in Terre Haute that need help, and I'm just one of them, and I really appreciate this."

The Wolfe family hopes to move in at the beginning of June.

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Photo: A publication-quality photo is available at: Habitat Photo
Contact: Nancy Rogers, Center for Public Service and Community Engagement, (812) 237-7900 or
Writer: Katie Spanuello, media relations assistant director, Indiana State University, (812) 237-3790 or; Paula Meyer, media relations coordinator; and Dave Taylor, media relations director, contributed to this report.

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Story Highlights

ISU supported the building of the Habitat House in conjunction with the city's annual April observance of Human Rights Day. More than 180 faculty and staff, and students who had forgone a typical spring break, volunteered for the project.

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