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Providing a Place to Call Home

 

Habitat Homecoming build provides experience and changes lives

 

Matthew Grant walked on to the Habitat for Humanity build site as a management major his freshman year to fulfill service hours for a course. He had no idea he was stepping into a life change.

“I came out to a workday and loved it,” he recalled. “All we were doing was putting in vinyl flooring, but it was really cool to me to actually be doing work on an actual house that a family was going to be living in.”

As his involvement progressed, his passion for the work inspired a new career path. “I realized I could just wake up every day and do this the rest of my life,” he said. When he returned to Clemson as a sophomore, he switched his major to construction science and management. Now a senior and advocacy chair for Clemson’s 29th Habitat for Humanity Homecoming build, Grant’s enthusiasm is just as strong as it was three years ago.

Grant’s story highlights the special relationship between the project and the Nieri Family Department of Construction Science and Management. On September 30, 2021, Michael ’86 and Robyn Nieri — namesakes of the department and owners of Great Southern Homes—strengthened the relationship further with a gift of $50,000 to Pickens County Habitat for Humanity. State Farm also donated $20,000 to the Clemson chapter. These gifts made the Homecoming build possible as well as another new Habitat Home to be built in 2022.

 

“I love to share what we all love about construction, and beyond that, getting to use construction to serve people.”

 

Approximately 60 CSM majors have contributed to this year’s build, according to Addison Dicks, a senior CSM major serving as project coordinator. Five CSM majors are part of the chapter’s leadership team.

Dicks stays on top of a myriad of tasks as diverse as recruiting volunteers, acquiring in-kind donations for materials, applying for permits, arranging security and even driving 200 miles to Summerville to pick up lumber. “Balancing it all between classes and trying to manage it has been a challenge, but it’s a good challenge,” he said.

According to Endowed Professor Dennis Bausman, the hands-on work experience creates an ideal learning opportunity. “We’re preparing young men and women not necessarily to hammer nails, but also to manage the process,” Bausman said. “But you’re a better manager if you have some feeling or experience of actually having gone through it. The lessons they are learning while they are out there working and managing the effort, I think, are invaluable.”

For some students, the building process and interacting with the families for whom the homes are built have shaped their lives and future plans.

“It definitely opens your eyes to a new perspective,” Dicks said. “I’m not going to speak for everybody, but a majority of the people who are blessed enough to come to college have probably come from a good life. When we grew up, we had a great roof over our head, and it’s very easy to take that for granted.”

In Grant’s case, the Habitat builds have had a direct impact on his career choice. He plans to work in construction for a nonprofit such as Habitat for Humanity after graduation. Until then, he will continue spreading the gospel of construction science to his classmates.

“I love to share what we all love about construction, and beyond that, getting to use construction to serve people,” he said.

 

 

The Good House

Student athletes completed a Habitat for Humanity home build project

Athletes build Habitat for Humanity house

Clemson Athletics and Pickens County Habitat for Humanity teamed up to construct a home build project in the city of Clemson. Three hundred and thirty student athletes logged over 1200 hours to build the home from scratch and were present from day one to the day of the house’s dedication on January 16th. The project took over a year to complete.

Funded in part by IPTAY and the Nieri Family Student-Athletics Enrichment Center, the home build was completed by student athletes representing all of Clemson’s athletic programs, making this the first time Clemson athletes have built a Habitat house from start to finish.

Weather conditions posed the most serious challenge for the group. Some days it was freezing; other days it rained and turned the ground to mud, forcing the volunteers to lay down tarps before they could continue to work on the foundation. Their tireless efforts resulted in a three-bedroom house — where Tabitha Good and her family now live.

Many student athletes had the opportunity to work alongside the Good family, including former men’s track and field runner Darron Coley.

“I knew they were coming from a rough situation, I knew about the time and energy they put in, and I knew that they worked hard to get their house,” said Coley. “Knowing that I made an impact, no matter how small, was really great.”

The student athletes who participated appreciated the chance to not only bond with their fellow classmates but also pitch in for the greater community. The project provided ample time to reflect.

“The little things we do can actually be a lot bigger than us,” said Maura Chozick, a senior on the women’s rowing team. “Putting in a couple nails, having fun with my friends, hammering some things turned into a house.”

Several coaches and faculty members were also able to work on the build with their students. Women’s soccer coach Eddie Radwanski was thankful for the opportunity to contribute meaningful work alongside his students.

“All of our student athletes, they all come from different backgrounds; they have different stories. I think these moments provide great perspective,” he said. “Obviously there are things that you can talk about as a coach: You can try to educate or give a life lesson to somebody. But in moments like these, no words are really needed.”

My Clemson: Christine Hart ’18

Christine Hart '18

Christine Hart ’18 working on the Habitat for Humanity Homecoming Build.

For the past 24 years, the Clemson family has come together to build 25 Habitat for Humanity houses. Since my freshman year, I have seen students, faculty and alumni dedicate their time and resources to give a local family the homecoming of a lifetime. To me the Habitat for Humanity Homecoming Build embodies what it means to carry a Clemson education into the larger world.

During my first year at Clemson many mentors opened my eyes to the inequalities present in our society. With the guidance of two Habitat advisers, Chris Heavner and Cindy Sanders, I began to work on Habitat houses as far away as Detroit, Michigan.

While the experiences in Detroit were impactful, my life was transformed by the needs I discovered within the Clemson community. As a freshman I became friends with a person experiencing homelessness, and it surprised me that someone I interacted with on a daily basis would be experiencing such difficulties. I found that homelessness could be present in any community, including Clemson. Thankfully, one house at a time, Clemson volunteers work for a world where everyone has a decent place to live.

The community that forms around the Homecoming House is truly a Clemson family. It is an acknowledgement that with an education comes a responsibility to care for those in need. Next year will be the 25th year of the Homecoming Build — the 25th year that students are empowered to look beyond the boundaries of campus and share their talents with a greater Clemson family.