Union in the News for November 1, 2007
Union students take part in Habitat rehab
By Michael Goot - The Daily Gazette
With some sweat and muscle, a Barrett Street house will be completely remade as part of Habitat for Humanity’s latest project.
Union College donated the house at 1124 Barrett, which was among 13 purchased by faculty and staff under a plan to revitalize the neighborhood. After the school employee moved, the college assumed ownership of the house and decided to donate it to the organization that helps build and renovate affordable housing for low-income families.
President Stephen Ainlay said a group of Union students had gone to New Orleans to help with efforts to rebuild from Hurricane Katrina. They then began looking for another endeavor. The process was about a year and a half in the making.
“It all came together,” he said at a kickoff event on Wednesday.
Ainlay said he hopes that Union College can recruit additional students and staff so they can speed up the completion of the renovation. He hoped that the college would continue to be involved, even though it would not likely donate any more houses. He is excited about the potential for partnerships with the Habitat organization.
“Our hope is we will have a thriving [college] chapter in the years ahead,” he said.
College chapters of Habitat for Humanity are fairly common, with units including RPI, Skidmore College and The College of Saint Rose.
Chip Miller, a junior at Union College, said he was involved with Habitat for Humanity in high school and wanted to continue his association. However, there was nothing at Union College.
Miller serves as the philanthropy chairman for the Psi Epsilon fraternity and they got involved last winter with a project to empty out a warehouse that Habitat now uses. About a dozen students are involved in this effort.
“The best thing I enjoy is the fact that you see results day by day,” he said. “You really are doing a lot of work and you know that some family is going to be living in here. It’s going to be a great experience.”
Habitat for Humanity of Schenectady County Executive Director Jeffrey Clark said the house needs substantial work. It was originally built in 1910.
The college replaced the roof and had asbestos in the linoleum floor removed before turning it over to Habitat.
“Union College has just been terrific,” he said.
One section of the exterior walls will require extensive carpentry work. Volunteers have mostly gutted the inside of the twostory, 2,200-square-foot house but left the walls intact. They plan three bedrooms with a large unfinished area on the second floor. Also, they plan to put two bathrooms in the house — one on each floor — and plan to make them handicap-accessible.
The timetable is to have the house completed by the end of May. “With the help that Union College has pledged, we’re hoping that we can do better than that,” Clark said.
Clark said his organization’s board has been trying to step up its production and rehabilitation of houses. “We set a goal of doing 25 houses in five years.”
Chuck Steiner, president of the Chamber of Schenectady County, praised the partnership. “You’re talking about two wonderful institutions coming together to benefit us as a community,” he said. Volunteers such as Charlie Snyder of Mariaville will be working on the house each Wednesday and Saturday. Snyder retired from a state job in June and did not know anything about carpentry or construction.
“I love working with these people and doing something good for the community,” he said. “Now I can hammer a nail.” Working conditions can be difficult. “There’s a lot of dust and particles fl ying through the air. It gets in your eyes,” said Jeremy Burstyn, a Union College junior from Larchmont. However, there are some perks — like when he gets to knock down walls. “It’s fun to break stuff,” he said.