Colgate’s Change of Habit

In two Colgate vans, 15 individuals ventured from the snow-covered region of Hamilton to Cabarrus County, North Carolina. Accustomed to long hours of hard work and waking up early, these individuals are the spirited volunteers of Colgate’s Habitat for Humanity group. Putting service above self during spring break and forming a group under the supervision of sophomore Chris Grillo and COVE staff member Betsey Busche, these members devoted their time to a housing project in a poverty-stricken area in North Carolina. Carbarrus proved a location in sharp contrast to the previous year’s project (led by junior John Drymon) in Camden.

Their most recent trip was sponsored by the Habitat group and the COVE. The 15 volunteers who enrolled on this trip were Community Team Coodinator from the COVE, Betsey Busche, senior Chris Galbicsek, juniors Mary Acoymo, Jessica McGowan-Vanderbeck and Jess Roetzer, sophomores Chris Grillo, Talia Cmaylo, Sabrina Szklanny, Jaimee Nagtalon Li Yin Zhou and Gina Landon and first-years Sagiv Edelman, John Kelly, Lindsay Serpe and Sydney Chun. Each of these volunteers spent their own money and dedicated their time helping others to achieve the dream of owning their own home.

According to Acoymo, the worst part of the trip was the “long, long, long van ride.” Despite complications and impatience during the journey down south, the Colgate Habitat for Humanity members eagerly arrived at their destination in North Carolina. Upon arrival at the project site, the group discovered that construction for this project was well underway. A house built by various Habitat groups normally takes about four to five weeks to complete, but work had begun by other college students several weeks prior to the Colgate group’s arrival. Despite the house being near completion, the Colgate’s participants nevertheless found many grueling tasks available. With aching backs and dust in their eyes, the volunteers diligently labored in cold weather and rain eight hours a day to make someone’s dream house a reality. Some of their tasks included placing siding on the house, insulating it as well as traveling to local warehouses to build the house frame. Others provided entertainment and assistance at an after-school study program for children of low-income homes.

The local Methodist Church provided housing and generous accommodations to the Colgate group. The best part of the trip according to Acoymo was “the southern hospitality BY FAR!” She enthusiastically stated, “I think we were the best fed, most warmly received group. Everyone treated us like part of the community and were so thankful for our help. It really made everything worthwhile.” The altruistic members of the local church held Bible studies for the Colgate group (although this was not a trip affiliated with religion), and even arranged to have a magician appear at one of the lunch breaks, during which each Habitat member was kindly taught how to perform a trick of his/her own. Acoymo also commented that she enjoyed “being thrown into a random group that ended up being full of amazing people.”

Due to the fact that she was abroad last semester, she was not able to meet many underclassmen, but states that “It was special to become great friends with underclassmen who I would never have met otherwise and are just fantastic people.” The group had such a wonderful time together that an exclusive “Spring Break Habitat NC” facebook group was formed containing inside jokes such as the “gymnatorium” (half gym, half auditorium) in which they ate and slept, and knowing the “ins and outs of vinyl siding.”

The volunteers bonded very well and enjoyed each other’s company during their free time. They took it into their own hands to enjoy the beautiful scenery, sightseeing during their limited free time. They even traveled to Concrete Mills before March Madness began! Chris Grillo described the trip by proudly asserting, “What everyone had in common was a spirit of service. I felt it was a good atmosphere of students who gave up their vacation and relaxation time, and even paid for the opportunity to serve somebody else. We were given a chance to enjoy the simple pleasure of helping out other people.”