COVE Update: Habitat for Humanity

Rob Sobelman

A central part of every family’s American Dream is to own its own home. While nearly 75 million Americans are homeowners, there are many Americans who are not able to afford to be one. Many families have incomes above the 200 percent poverty line that precludes their eligibility for government services, but still are not able to save enough money for a down payment and mortgage. To help these working-class families achieve the American Dream, non-profit organizations such as Habitat for Humanity International step in to bridge the gap between economic means and familial need by providing affordable homes. Founded in 1976, Habitat for Humanity has now built over 50,000 homes in the U.S. and over 200,000 worldwide, housing a total of over one million people.

As with many international initiatives, the Colgate Community has made significant contributions to the effort to help others. Through the Center for Outreach, Volunteerism, and Education (COVE), students have helped with physical construction of homes as well as fundraising in order to further Habitat for Humanity’s mission of providing housing for underprivileged families. Last year, Colgate’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity held its First Annual HomeRun fundraiser that raised almost $3,000 for their Madison County affiliate. With 85 participants, the event was extremely successful but limited in its scope.

On Saturday, April 21, the Second Annual HomeRun Charity Walk/Run is planned and is expected to have over 200 participants, potentially raising more than $10,000. With 13 corporate sponsors, including corporate giant Wal-Mart, the group is well on its way to raising significantly more funds than last year’s event yielded. The scope of this year’s event promises to be on an entirely new level to match the increased fundraising goal of the group. This year’s HomeRun will include a half-marathon in addition to last year’s 5K walk/run, thanks to the hard work of Leah Susser ’07, Erin Frohardt ’07, Mohita Singh ’10, Mandie Samuels ’07, Charley Burkly ’07, and Laura Wolff ’07. The addition necessitated that a new route be planned and formal permission grants be attained from three different townships, which are just two examples of the enormous amount of organizational planning this event is entailing through the strong teamwork of John Demler and Tory Glerum of Colgate’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity in partnership with those mentioned above.

The funds raised will be used by the Madison County Habitat for Humanity chapter to purchase materials to build a new home in Nelson, New York that is planned to begin construction in late May. With the volunteer labor, a Habitat for Humanity house costs $60,000 to complete, a figure that has doubled in the past 10 years. In addition to fundraisers like this one, the Madison County Habitat for Humanity chapter is also currently pursuing a million dollar grant that would allow them to build seven additional houses in the Oneida area in partnership with the Community Action Partnership. Although affordable housing is often a pressing need for working-class families, the housing market is currently extremely competitive and expensive. In this part of upstate New York, a home that sold for $70,000 two years ago is now being listed at $120,000 to $150,000.Since salaries are not increasing to meet new costs of living, and the region has lost more than 3,000 manufacturing jobs in the last few years, there is a widening divide between those who can afford to purchase and those who cannot.

Colgate’s Habitat for Humanity chapter has approximately 40 active members and participates in constructing new homes every Saturday. Participation in the HomeRun fundraiser is an excellent first step to being involved in Habitat for Humanity. To participate in HomeRun please contact John Demler ’08 (jdemler) or Tory Glerum ’09 (vglerum), or for building activities contact Leah Susser (lsusser), or visit