Northwood students reach out to Habitat for Humanity

“Every hour that you put in really makes a difference,” said Northwood junior Quentin Northcutt. Northcutt is one of many students who has been working with Chatham Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit organization that has worked to change substandard housing conditions for more than 100 families in Chatham County.

Since 1989, Chatham Habitat has been working on four communities, with a total of 69 houses where volunteers are able to work. With this year’s addition of the Charger Challenge, Northwood students are required to complete a minimum of 20 hours of community service throughout the school year. While some find this to be a burden on their school lives, others have used this opportunity as a way to give back and get involved in their community.

Senior Brooke Wilson, who has been working with Habitat for the past year, has found Habitat to be a new, more rewarding way to volunteer.

“Habitat is really fun to do and it’s a better way to [volunteer],” said Wilson. “I used to volunteer at the library, and I feel that [Habitat] is reaching out more to people who really need [the help].”

Northcutt shared similar views.

“I work at [Habitat] because it’s a new experience…but it’s also something that is kind of fun to do,” said Northcutt.

Volunteers, such as Northcutt and Wilson, do work that many construction workers do, such as tiling, painting and working with insulation.

Senior Marisa McKissick began working at Habitat in order to earn hours for the Charger Challenge, but then “grew to love it.” Now McKissick has worked at Habitat 15 times, and has formed a friendship with the recipients of one of the houses.

“[The recipient’s] name is Rene, and he is one of the sweetest people I have ever met,” said McKissick.

Chatham Habitat held a dedication ceremony Feb. 11, in which two families were given the completed houses. McKissick attended and said that it was “amazing.”

“One of the women didn’t know how to speak English, but she had been going to a teacher. She spoke English that day and said thank you to everyone who had helped fix her house and it was really meaningful,” said McKissick. “When they dedicated the house that I worked on primarily, Rene tried not to cry and it was really sweet.”

Despite the hard work that is involved with building the houses, Habitat construction crew leader Kate McCarthy was “shocked” at how helpful Northwood students have been.

“I’m surprised at the work ethic that the students show, and the fact that they bring a great attitude to any task,” said McCarthy, who works with Habitat through Americorps. “Even if it is the dirtiest crawl space that no one wants to get in, the students aren’t afraid of that.”

Family services coordinator Natalia Lenis agreed with McCarthy.

“[The Northwood students] are great and we love to have them here; they bring a lot of energy. No matter what we have for them, they are always willing to do everything,” said Lenis.

Aside from making good memories, McCarthy said that completing community service hours is what led her to her career.

“[Community service] really just gave me a different perspective on the world and allowed me to have a different perspective on the community I was living in,” said McCarthy. “It lets you see what’s right in front of you that you wouldn’t normally see. When that’s instilled in you in high school, that stays with you for the rest of your life.”

Wilson also reflected on the idea that Habitat isn’t just about the service hours.

“You really think more about the little things,” said Wilson. “You really appreciate having a home.”

–By Emily Brooks