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Habitat: A Spring Break Spent Building


Working on a House

Sara Waymire, senior management major from Miamisburg, Ohio, reflects on the spring break Habitat for Humanity tour to Birmingham, Ala. Waymire is the president of Habitat for Humanity. View Sara's Journal Here

Josh Gargac, junior mechanical engineering major from Northwood, Ohio, chronicles his weeklong ONU Habitat for Humanity trip to Jacksonville, Fla. As a Habitat officer, Gargac helped plan the 25-person trip. View Josh's Journal Here

Patrick Schmees, third-year pharmacy student from Fairfield, Ohio, recaps his week in Jackson, Miss., with ONU Habitat for Humanity. View Patrick's Journal Here

Birmingham, Alabama

Sara Waymire, senior management major from Miamisburg, Ohio, reflects on the spring break Habitat for Humanity tour to Birmingham, Ala. Waymire is the president of Habitat for Humanity.

Monday, February 26

The Work Begins

Our first day began with an early morning orientation where we learned about Habitat Birmingham, which built 32 houses last year and hopes to complete even more this year. Afterwards, the ONU group was split into three smaller groups, and people were given the opportunity to frame walls, build sheds or paint. We only worked until 3:30 p.m., and even though our day was short, the warm Alabama sun had left its mark on our cheeks and arms.

After a short rest, a local church treated us to a buffet dinner where one member of our group managed to sample every dish on the menu.

Tuesday, February 27


We spent Tuesday working on the same project as day one. Some of the site supervisors had changed, however, allowing us to work with different Habitat Birmingham affiliates like AmeriCorps members, many of whom told stories about the places they have lived and worked. The cold and rainy weather complicated our tasks today, but our teams persevered and made it through the day.

To relax, we spent the evening playing laser tag, after which a student delivered an inspiring devotion.

Wednesday, February 28

Sights in Birmingham

With the entire day to spend as we pleased, many of us took the opportunity to catch up on our sleep. Although the weather was still chilly, it turned out to be a perfect day to visit the Birmingham Zoo and nearby Botanical Gardens. Even though the flowers were not in bloom, the gardens were still beautiful. Afterwards, we visited Vulcan Park, home to one of the world's largest iron statues.

That evening we attended a church service at Shades Mountain Baptist Church, where the congregation numbers more than 7,000. Our group was astounded by the church's size, and we were energized by the speaker's funny yet powerful message.

Thursday, February 29

This Old House

Today we shifted gears, working on older houses rather than building new ones. Before new Habitat houses are built in decaying neighborhoods, existing ones are repaired, so our entire group worked together to replace a roof. While some people were cold or tired, or simply scared to be working on a roof, the appreciation of the people in the neighborhood kept us going. It was a blessing to see how our work affected the neighborhood, and it was inspiring to see our group members motivating and encouraging one another.

Friday, March 11, 2008

Southern Hospitality

For our final day, we continued to repair roofs, eventually moving on to another older home. Despite the hard work, we were able to bond as a team and enjoy our last day. The best part, however, was the food. Local women cooked a traditional southern lunch: red beans and rice with cornbread. They were grateful for our presence, and we were happy to know we were making a difference in their community.

That evening, as we shared photos and talked about our fantastic week in Birmingham, there was a sense of closeness among people who started the trip as acquaintances, but become friends while serving others. Overall, our trip was successful and a memorable part of our college experience.

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Jacksonville, Florida

Josh Gargac, junior mechanical engineering major from Northwood, Ohio, chronicles his weeklong ONU Habitat for Humanity trip to Jacksonville, Fla. As a Habitat officer, Gargac helped plan the 25-person trip.

Saturday, February 23

The Long Journey

With finals week complete, our journey to Jacksonville, Fla., began early Saturday morning. We departed ONU around 5 a.m., arriving at our destination nearly 19 hours later. Since our lodgings were not available until the next afternoon, we spent the night at a church just outside Jacksonville where everyone slept soundly after our long journey.

Sunday, February 24

Hospitality Abounds

We spent our first morning in Florida attending a worship service where everyone was very supportive of Habitat for Humanity's mission. Their hospitality, which would be a trend throughout the week, made us feel very welcome.

After the service, we continued on to Jacksonville, arriving at our housing for the week, Riverside Presbyterian Church. After settling in, the Florida sunshine was ours to enjoy-we spent the day exploring the city, playing miniature golf and laser tag and riding go-carts.

Monday, February 25

Day at the Beach

Since HabiJax, the Habitat affiliate in Jacksonville, does not work on Mondays, we were free to enjoy the city. Naturally, we made our way to Jacksonville Beach. The beach was amazing, especially since it was the first time many of us, including myself, had ever seen the ocean. To kick off our weeklong Habitat Olympics, volunteers were divided into five teams to compete in the first task: tug-of-war on the beach.

Tuesday, February 26

Working Hard

Today was our first official workday. HabiJax is one of the largest Habitat affiliates in the United States and therefore works on multiple houses at once. Our group was split into smaller teams and sent to different houses to do a variety of tasks, including painting, landscaping and siding. We were scheduled to work from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., but a spontaneous thunderstorm cut our day a little short. We enjoyed a meal with our HabiJax and AmeriCorps affiliates, followed by the second Olympic event: archery with "pin the tail on the donkey" rules.

Wednesday, February 27

Paint Duty

There was a bit of a chill in the air, but the warm weather was certainly better than the snow that blanketed much of Ohio. The bulk of our day was spent working in our small groups, with nearly everyone on paint duty.

Thursday, February 28


We spent the day siding houses, painting, and installing windows. After work, we continued our Habitat Olympics with a game of basketball knockout and an equestrian relay.

Friday, February 29

Ice Pop Break Time

Every day during the week we took an "ice pop" break at 10:30 a.m., and it was sad when today was our final break. Since today was only a half-work day, HabiJax treated us to pizza, after which we went out for ice cream.

For the final Olympic event, we had a synchronized house building, meaning groups worked together to act out the different tasks associated with building a house. The winning group did a parody of the "Cha Cha Slide" using building actions rather than dance moves. Overall, everyone had a good laugh.

Saturday, March 1

A Job Well Done

The long voyage home gave everyone a chance to reflect on the past week's events. We were able to grow in fellowship while serving others, and do it all in a beautiful, warm climate. We performed small, but necessary, steps in the construction of a house. As we left town, we drove through an old neighborhood that had been completely revived by the construction of 95 Habitat houses, reminding us that our small contributions were part of something larger: the building of a community.

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Jackson, Mississippi

Erecting Walls in House OnePatrick Schmees, third-year pharmacy student from Fairfield, Ohio, recaps his week in Jackson, Miss., with ONU Habitat for Humanity.

Saturday, February 23

Road Trip Traditions

At 5 a.m., we left snowy, cold Ada for Jackson, Miss. Most people slept as we drove south, stopping periodically for meals. We watched "The History of the Chicken," a documentary that has become a Habitat trip tradition. Around 8:30 p.m., we arrived in Jackson and settled into Northminister Baptist Youth House, where we would be staying throughout the week.

Sunday, February 24


Today we got our first taste of Jackson on a bus tour; we saw the governor's house, the capital building and the neighborhood where Ohio Northern built its first Habitat home. We also saw the neighborhood where we would be working. After church services, a group of students prepared a spaghetti lunch. The rest of the afternoon was free for everyone to hang out, go for a walk or play games. That evening we had praise and worship, after which I gave a devotion about emulating Jesus' humility and putting others ahead of oneself.

Monday, February 25

Beautiful DayRoofers

The 7 a.m. wake-up call found us eager to arrive at the worksite and start building. Our group was divided into several teams to put up scaffolding, prime and paint walls, construct walls and put up trusses. The sun came out at about 10:30 a.m. - it was beautiful day. We worked until 4:40 p.m., and as we were loading the bus, a local rapper stopped by and performed for us.

For dessert that night we had dirt pudding - a fitting treat. Later we gave our roses and thorns, a Habitat tradition where we each name a good thing that happened today and a thing that did not go so well. Praise and worship followed, after which Nathan Kocheiser gave a devotion about being relational with God and letting Him be a part of our lives.

Tuesday, February 26

Making Progress

The morning was cold and cloudy when we arrived at the worksite a little before 8 a.m. We resumed our tasks from the day before, with progress starting to show: the siding group finished two sides of the house, the painting crew added a second coat and another group put plywood on the roof of a second home. Afterwards, that group started shingling the second roof. We worked until 5 p.m. and ate dinner at the local Baptist Hospital. Back at the youth house, we did our daily chores, said our roses and thorns, and Justin Stone gave us the devotion for the night based on the Nickelback song, "If Everyone Cared."

Wednesday, February 27

Working Together

When we arrived at the worksite today, we learned that our pile of wood had been stolen by someone looking to say warm during the chilly night. Despite the cold, we were making headway on the houses, with the shingling finished on the first house and in process on the second. Cajun CrawdadsEventually the sun came out, and we were lucky to have Two Sisters Kitchen provide us a lunch of chicken, beans, collard greens and vanilla wafers in pudding. We finished working around 3:30 p.m. and then spent the evening at a local mall. We had ice cream sundaes, a sweet treat that was followed by Grace Lunsford's telling us to "get off the bitter bus" by changing our attitudes and looking for positive aspects in life.

Thursday, February 28


Again, it was a cold morning, so there was a fire pit set up for warmth. As the day went on, however, the temperature climbed to a little over 60 degrees. We completed various tasks today, from siding and varnishing, to touch-up painting, shingling, and building a shed. The afternoon was a little slower, but it allowed people to really enjoy each other's company and have great conversations. We left the worksite about 4:30 p.m. to head to the hospital for dinner.

After dinner, Dr. Jeffery Allison, professor of pharmacy practice and Habitat advisor, bought crawdads so we could enjoy real Southern food. We played a "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" game with fill-in-the-blank skits about caulking, a three-headed singer having the worst Habitat day ever, and Habitat party host with four guests. Next, a volunteer was blindfolded while another person helped him eat crawdads. After all the crawdad shenanigans, we actually tried them. Ashley Wolf and Katie Park delivered the night's devotion about staying positive on the worksite.

Friday, February 29

Fruits of our Labor

Today was sunny and a great day, as well. We finished miscellaneous tasks like varnishing and sanding cabinets and putting up birdhouses. After lunch, we did our final cleanup and attended a ceremony recognizing the workers and new homeowners.

House 1 AfterTrip leader Jay Gindlesberger gave the final devotion, in which he encouraged us to enjoy the friendships we had made and to understand the difference between happiness (temporary) and joy (long-term). We concluded with a final round of roses and thorns, a senior farewell and a hug line, where we all said nice things to one another and shared congratulatory hugs.

Saturday, March 1

Strange Encounters

With our work in Jackson complete, we departed around 5 a.m. for Ada. Although a relatively sleepy drive home, when we stopped for lunch in Tennessee, a local university asked us to be part of a music video emulating Swedish pop band Ace of Base. We returned to the sleepy Ohio Northern campus around 10 p.m., exhausted but with the satisfaction of knowing we spent our spring break making a difference in Jackson - one house at a time.

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