ENID, Okla. — While college students across the country are preparing to head to warm party spots, a group of students from Marquette University have chosen to use their time off in service to others.

The students, from the Catholic university in Milwaukee, Wis., are continuing the school's longstanding tradition of coming to Enid to work with Enid Habitat for Humanity — one of more than a dozen projects Marquette students are tackling around the country.

Brian Pillatzke, a project coordinator with Enid Habitat for Humanity, said Marquette students have been coming to Enid to volunteer for spring break for more than 20 years.

The group of seven Marquette students arrived last Saturday, and they have been helping renovate a house at 223 W. Pine.

The home was built in the early 1900s, and was donated to Habitat for Humanity almost two years ago. Marquette students also helped work on the home during spring break last year.

Pillatzke said it's been a boost as the home nears completion to have the Marquette students available.

"We're grateful to them for coming every year to do this, and giving up their spring break to come build homes in Enid," Pillatzke said. "We love their enthusiasm and the energy they bring."

Students were busy Tuesday working alongside Debbie Faulk, who will be moving into the home when it's complete.

"This is so cool that they gave up their spring break, not only to help me, but that they did it to help someone they'd never met," Faulk said. "It's an act not only of service, but leadership and investing in the community and country, and putting their faith into action."

She said the students have shown a tremendous work ethic and willingness to learn new skills.

"I see all the things they're learning to do, and they just jump right in and do it," she said. "They really work hard, and they're very conscientious."

Katie Robertson, a sophomore from Marquette, said this is her first service trip with the university. She said she and her peers from Marquette have been warmly received in Enid.

"Everyone here has been so nice to us," Robertson said. "We've been so welcomed here. It's been awesome."

Robertson said she chose to serve with Habitat for Humanity this spring break because it gives her an opportunity she doesn't usually have during the busy academic year.

"I don't have a lot of time to do service during my normal week," she said, "and I wanted to be able to give back, and this was a good opportunity to get out and serve."

Service to others is one of the pillars of Jesuit education at Marquette, Robertson said, and the trip to Enid was a chance to delve into that aspect of her education.

"It was very important to me to hold my own with that," she said, "and commit to an actual Jesuit education."

Jamal Hanson, a freshman at Marquette, said he saw the service trip as offering more opportunities for personal growth than other spring break trips.

"I know there were a few different trips I could do for spring break," he said, "but this one looked a little more challenging, and I thought it would help grow me more."

He said that character growth is based in serving others.

"At Marquette they talk a lot about being with others, and seeing others' needs, and I think being here will be good for my character," he said. "I think it will help me learn more about myself, and I get to help someone else in the process."

Marquette sophomore Clare Herrig said this is her second service trip with the university. Last year she went to serve with the Little Sisters of the Poor at a Catholic nursing home in Cincinnati, Ohio.

She said that trip helped broaden her horizons, and she saw coming to Enid as another opportunity to "strengthen my perspective on life."

"Going into a community that is foreign to me, it is so intriguing to me to learn about that community, and learn about the people, and take time away from what I'm used to," she said. "I learned a lot about the people in the community, and I learned a lot about myself in the process."

The students will be in Enid the remainder of the week. While here, they are staying at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, which has been hosting the students for more than 10 years.

The Rev. John Toles, pastor at St. Matthew's, said the church appreciates the opportunity to offer shelter to the students each year.

"I just think it's great that they're a bunch of college students, giving up their spring break to come and work on houses in Enid. I think that's brilliant," Toles said. "They come to our community to work, to serve others, and the least we can do is give them a place to stay."

He said the students' visit each year is a reminder of what it looks like when the principles of faith are put to work.

"It's truly faith in action," Toles said. "We can oftentimes give lip service to helping those in need, but this is boots on the ground action. This is faith doing something — not just lip service."

For more information on Enid Habitat for Humanity visit the group's Facebook page, or call (580) 237-0114.

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Neal is health, military affairs and religion reporter and columnist for the Enid News & Eagle. Follow him on Twitter, @jamesnealwriter, and online at jamesrneal.com.
Have a question about this story? Do you see something we missed? Do you have a story idea for James? Send an email to jneal@enidnews.com.

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