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 23The 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 24Hospitality 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 25Day 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 26Working 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 27Paint 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 28Progress
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 29Ice 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 1A 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.