Out of the 1,553 Habitat affiliates across the United States, Sussex County Habitat for Humanity has been selected as the Collegiate Challenge Host Affiliate of the Year for 2012. Collegiate Challenge provides students with an opportunity to volunteer with Habitat affiliates across the country during a school break.
Students decide to serve and help Habitat projects instead of going on traditional college spring break trips. Sussex County Habitat for Humanity was nominated by multiple student groups who were impressed with their experience with SCHFH during their trip week. The experience included high quality of interaction with homeowner families, compliance with work-site safety practices and providing an excellent level of contact with the student groups during their trip.
“It was an amazing experience getting to know the Sussex County chapter of Habitat. From the moment we arrived, we felt welcomed and appreciated the entire time we were there. Tyler Fitzgerald [youth coordinator for SCHFH] was a fantastic host, spending time with us in the evenings and there for us whenever we needed him, “ said Hanna Berke of Suffolk University
Kevin Gilmore, executive director of SCHFH, said, “We are honored to be selected for this national award. It was a team effort. From the parishioners at St. Phillip's in Laurel who housed them; to the AmeriCorps Construction team for assuring that each group received proper education, skill instruction and safety rules; to our regular volunteers for their instruction; to our family services crew for assuring that teams met with our partner families; and to both Tyler Fitzgerald and Lyndsay Humphreys [volunteer coordinator] who assured each team had a mission, concrete goals and an experience to remember for a lifetime.”
Fitzgerald, now an AmeriCorps alumus, currently working in Wilmington, congratulated all the Collegiate Challenge group leaders and said, “They made it the best year ever! Through the determined efforts of the incredible students on their teams, SCHFH managed to raise over $16,000 to build simple, decent and affordable homes in partnership with our families. Over 150 volunteers arrived from across the country to Sussex County, Delaware with their hearts and minds determined to make a difference in the community, and they did it!”
Each week when college groups arrive, they are welcomed by the youth coordinator from SCHFH. Most of the groups are given hospitality and rooms at St. Phillip's Church in Laurel. Recently, St. Phillip's Church received the outstanding volunteer award for volunteer service from Gov. Jack Markell. The students are then given a brief overview of Habitat for Humanity and the local work being done in Sussex County. Then they join SCHFH staff members, partner families and all the AmeriCorps service members at a potluck dinner hosted by St. Phillip's. Students spend the week at the church and make their own lunches and dinners the remainder of the week. Each day they commute to the different job sites and work on Habitat homes throughout the county. Often in the evenings, they venture off to Rehoboth Beach or are hosted at the YMCA or Seaford Boys & Girls Club for swimming.
Sydney King, the current youth coordinator for SCHFH, said, “We have 14 teams registered this year, and we even have a team coming from Canada. Groups will begin arriving in February and will be finishing up in April. I am excited to build upon our legacy of success and look forward to continuing the momentum!” Community Engagement Director Tom Protack said, “Two homes in Seaford on King Road have been selected as the primary sites for Collegiate Challenge 2013. A Ground Breaking and Project Blessing is scheduled for 9 a.m.,Tuesday, Feb. 26. All are welcome to share in the excitement and meet our volunteers, future homeowners and staff.”
To learn more about Sussex County Habitat for Humanity or the Collegiate Challenge Program, call Sydney King at 302-855-1153, Ext. 208 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out www.sussexcoutyhabitat.org or Facebook.