Hiram College

Rainy days and long hours of work rarely make for a dream vacation. But Hannah Brown ’13, wouldn’t have wanted to spend her spring break any other way.

She participated in Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge earlier this month, where she and fifteen other Hiram students traveled to Lewisburg, W.Va., to help build a home for a family in need.

“These people are working so hard to get their lives back on track,” Brown said. “It’s an honor for them; it’s getting them what they deserve. For me, this was my dream vacation.”

Michael Corr, senior associate dean of students, along with Elizabeth Zollinger, associate professor of mathematics, advised the students.

Corr said a typical day consisted of getting to the worksite at 9 a.m. and working until about 4 p.m. The women on the trip helped build a house for a single mother of four, taking part in an all-women build, while the men helped build a wheelchair ramp for another home.

Though not as glamorous as the typical beach vacations, Corr said alternative spring breaks allow college students a chance to give back.

“Most of us have not had building experience,” he said. “It reminds folks that there’s nothing you can’t do. The bottom line is that there are a lot of folks out there in need. We are in a position to help; it just takes pushing ourselves.”

For TJ Gerrett ’12, this was her first time attempting any type of construction work, but she was able to successfully help finish the home’s interior wall and put trusses on the roof.

“I knew nothing about construction or building,” she said. “I (had) never used a hammer. They were very good at explaining things.”

The group persevered each day, Monday through Friday, through conditions that a Habitat leader called some of the harshest weather volunteers have ever worked through.

But on the last day of the trip, the women got a chance to meet the family who would soon live in the house they helped build. This, Brown said, gave her a true sense of pride, as she got a chance to play with the four kids and hold them in her lap.

“Watching them and holding them makes it so real that they get to be in this house we just built,” she said.

Gerrett shared the same feelings, adding that “it felt like we actually did something for someone.”

The family will move into the home by the end of April.

The Habitat for Humanity Collegiate Challenge is a year-round alternative break program, where groups of students over the age of 16 take trips to a specific site to contribute work on home construction projects for the less-fortunate. As groups come and go, they pick up where the previous group left off. Hiram College has been participating in this program for nearly two decades.