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By Fred Black

Building More Than Homes

By Fred Black Posted September 21, 2011 at 1:14 am

It was another special Sunday in our community and I witnessed another amazing event. On September 18th more than 200 people gathered on the grass at the Habitat for Humanity of Orange County’s Phoenix Place to enjoy a lunch and dedicate the 10 homes built in a program called “Build A Block.” So many things about this project were just extraordinary, but here’s what stood out to me.
First, the idea to do this came from UNC student Megan Jones who led the Habitat Chapter at UNC during the planning and execution phases. The chapter typically built two houses a year, but when she learned that there were many UNC families applying for Habitat homes who might not receive one, she proposed bringing several schools and departments together to build an entire block of 10 homes.
She ran her idea by Patti Thorp, who described herself as “the cheerleader,” and with contagious enthusiasm and excitement, she helped the project idea come to life. Not only was there no UNC money used, but the group came up with creative ways to raise the $350,000required to build the10 homes. They also were able to encourage more than 1400 members of the UNC community to work some 7,052 hours alongside the future homeowners. In the Habitat model, homeowners are asked to contribute the required number of “sweat equity” hours to the program. Speakers indicated that those who worked on the project came together on Saturdays as strangers but left as friends.

How do you feel about this accomplishment?

More than just building bonds while building homes, participants understood that they were helping fellow members of the UNC family to own a home. New homeowner Latesha Foushee indicated that this project added so much to her life and would allow her family to live in a quality home in a safe neighborhood. In speaking for all of the new homeowners, she indicated that the experience was a true blessing.
Another special thing about Sunday was that Jonathan Reckford, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity and a UNC alumnus, attended the event and did the formal dedication. He also expressed pride in the fact the UNC Habitat club set a new standard for campus chapters, as this was the largest Habitat project undertaken by any university club in the country. Thus, it’s no surprise that UNC’s Habitat Club received the award for being the top campus chapter in the nation.  As Reckford quipped, UNC is the “University of National Champions.”
I have to believe that all in attendance, from the community members to the new home-owning families, had to feel the specialness of the event. Each of the sponsoring schools and departments received Habitat for Humanity hammers as a token of appreciation, presented by students Franklin Niblock, co-chair of the UNC Habitat Club, and Lauren Blanchet, co-chair of the UNC Build a Block project. Both Patti and Holden Thorp also assisted with the presentations. 
Yes, it was a special day; a day to remember the work of our great students, staff and faculty, and remember how dreams and visions can do so much good for others. The hammers are great reminders of what this new group of friends “hammered” out over the weeks they spent on the project. They are also particularly special because they symbolize that while they used hammers to “Build A Block,” they actually built something much, much more than homes.
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