Ozarks students help freshman toward building a home for her family

Release Date: 4/20/2012

Volunteerism - helping others - is a key component of education at Ozarks. A handful of early rising students recently helped one of their own by donating their hours in a Habitat for Humanity Saturday work project in Ft. Smith, hours which will go toward helping the family of U of O freshman Mollie Palmer get their own home.

Habitat for Humanity is an international, ecumenical Christian, non-governmental, non-profit organization founded in 1976 and devoted to building "simple, decent, and affordable" housing. Homes are built using volunteer labor and are sold at no profit.

This trip was sponsored by U of O's Methodist Campus Ministries

Volunteers from Ozarks have worked with Habitat for many years, for convo credit or community service credit, or just because they want to. "This is my 2nd time going on a trip for Habitat for Humanity," said Andrea Dankert, a senior Marketing and Strategic Communications major from Broken Bow, Oklahoma. "I went just because. Although it's not fun to get up on a Saturday morning and be out and going by 7:00, it always feels good to know you're helping somebody else, that you're helping build a house. We always have fun together, hanging the walls or whatever it is. One reason I did it is that I'm moving into an apartment soon, and I don't have furniture or anything, and I know I'll be needing people's help assembling things and putting pictures on the wall., etc. So I thought, 'You know what, you reap what you sew, and so I need to go to do this so someday when I need help I'll get it.' Basic good karma."

In addition to Dankert, volunteers for the trip were Janett Cisneros, Brooke Conner, Tyra Omeir, Mollie Palmer, Adam Waynick, Lindsey Reynolds, Corey Snyder, Eli Stone, Alex Turner, Matt Wellborn, Ethan Young, Kara Willbanks, and Levi Johnson, with Lou Chapman, Methodist Campus Ministries sponsor, and Rosalie Colley, a member of the First United Methodist Church of Clarksville. 

"For me," said Chapman, "organizing and taking students to perform this community service with Habitat is an opportunity to serve from my heart and hands, and it allows me the chance to interact with students on a different level than I see them daily at the university.  Our Ozarks students are always enthusiastic, no matter what job Habitat has lined up for us to do on our workdays. Through the years, Ozarks students that I have taken to work in Fort Smith have participated in all aspects of building, including framing, hanging sheet rock, roofing, painting, installing windows and vinyl siding, and on occasion, working at the Re-Store, a retail hardware and supply store open to the public in Fort Smith that specializes in new, used, and one-of-a-kind building materials."

The particular house, the 88th built by Arkansas Valley Habitat for Humanity, is officially called "The Baker Build," in memory of former Fort Smith major Ray Baker.  

For freshman Mollie Palmer, this project was far more than a chance to get a convo credit. "Habitat for Humanity is wonderful," she said. "They build houses for people who can't afford to buy a house normally. You still have to do a lot of work - it's not a gift, but it's a whole lot cheaper than trying to get a house the standard way. The only charge is for the cost of the materials they use to build the house. It's an interest-free loan you pay back over a period of time, kind of like a normal mortgage except it's really a lot cheaper per month because you aren't paying as much in the long term. Because of Habitat, my family is going to have our own house where we couldn't any other way."

Palmer said requirements for Habitat houses include 300 hours of labor on another house by members of her family before work can begin on her house. "A certain percentage of the hours have to be from us - me, my mom, and my sister - but 35-percent can come from people who know us and want to help," she said, "so when we went to Fort Smith, students from Ozarks all combined contributed 110 hours of working time to put toward our house. This was all that we needed from other people, and so as a result, we can go ahead and get started on our home. We wouldn't have been able to get it this soon if U of O volunteers hadn't done that for us. Now we get to begin it in June."

Palmer says she will definitely be volunteering for future Habitat projects and is happy to be affiliated with U of O. "I love Ozarks!" she said. "I would never want to go anywhere else!"