The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

March 14, 2014

Homebuilding tradition: Marquette University students in Enid working on Habitat for Humanity house

ENID, Okla. — No one quite remembers when Marquette University students started an annual trek from Milwaukee to Enid, but it was at least two decades ago.

Local Habitat for Humanity Vice President Matt Briscoe said another, more senior member of Habitat remembers the group being around before he started volunteering in 1997.

The tradition originates each year with the Marquette Action Program, an offshoot of the Jesuit school’s mission of social justice volunteerism. Every year, more than 200 students from the school take their designated spring break to join others in various programs that include education, mentoring, elder care and others.

This year, 18 students came to Enid to build a house at the corner of 20th and Maple.

It’s not quite a home yet, but it will be soon. Habitat for Humanity, which has an office in The Non-Profit Center downtown, currently is taking applications for the next family to live there. The award is based on need and will help low-income families who don’t qualify for a traditional home loan.

“Our mission is basically to provide affordable housing for those who normally couldn’t afford it,” Briscoe said.

When the Marquette students arrived Monday, the house was enclosed but unfinished.

“You could see right through the house when we got here, and now, there are rooms,” said Alex Oelerich.

Oelerich and his peers put up drywall throughout the house and did yard work. They helped Habitat organize their on-site operation, too, said Briscoe. By Friday, they were painting the exterior a light blue.

In all, one week of volunteering means about a quarter of the nonprofit’s workload in building the house. Professionals are hired to wire the house and install heating and air.

“It’s great to have the labor pool. We usually get volunteer groups from churches and towns and from the base, but it’s really nice to have them come for a solid week,” said Briscoe.

Marquette student Dan Brennan praised Enid for helping them during their stay. The group stayed at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church on cots lent by the Salvation Army. Each day, another business or family provided them with a meal.

“The community has been so outreaching; there’s been an overwhelming support from them. I think that kind of drives some of our progress because we want to give back to the community that’s given us so much,” Brennan said. “After coming here, it’s kind of obvious why we come. They really care about what we do and getting some work done.”

The students won’t get to meet the family destined to live at 2001 E. Maple, but that’s OK. In Brennan’s words, “knowing in the end that someone will live here is enough.”

“It’s so much different than serving in a soup line or something like that,” Oelerich added. “There you might get some interpersonal feelings, but here you can make some real difference and see some real concrete change.”

These particular students won’t be back next year. The Marquette Action Program won’t let them repeat. Habitat for Humanity will remain, though, building about a home a year for deserving applicants.

Briscoe said the group needs help in many ways. Many materials are donated from extras left over from other building projects. Habitat also needs several new volunteer board members.

To contact the organization call (580) 237-0114.

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