Fifth Annual Lawrence University Shack-a-thon Event Eyes Goal of Building Local Habitat Home

Each May for the past four years, teams of Lawrence University students have done their best HGTV “Design on a Dime” impersonation on behalf of Habitat for Humanity.

This weekend, nearly 20 teams of LU students representing various campus organizations will once again combine creative engineering with scrap material acumen to transform the Main Hall Green into a temporary shantytown for the fifth annual “Shack-a-thon” celebration.

Since its debut in 2002, Shack-a-thon has raised nearly $18,000. Organizers hope this year’s event on May 20-21 will enable them to reach their goal of $25,000 — enough to partner with other area organizations to sponsor the construction of a Habitat for Humanity home in the Fox Cities.

“When you’re living in a warm, dry room on a residential college campus, it is incredibly easy to forget about other people who are not so fortunate,” said Lawrence senior Elizabeth Hermanson, who is heading up this year’s event. “Although it’s not completely realistic, Shack-a-Thon does provide students with a first-hand, one-night experience with homelessness. Not only are students forced to think about homelessness and affordable housing issues, but they are active participants in the fight against homelessness by fundraising for Habitat.

“There is a huge need in this country, Appleton included, for affordable housing, and many Lawrentians have taken it upon themselves to work toward reducing that need,” Hermanson added. “As we enter our fifth year, we are just $7,000 shy of reaching our goal and making a very tangible difference in the community in the form of a co-sponsored Habitat house. We hope this is the year that goal is finally realized.”

Habitat for Humanity homes in the Fox Cities typically costs about $75,000 to build. Locally, Habitat constructs on average 10-14 houses a year and this year’s allotment is already all accounted for. Should Shack-a-thon reach its goal this weekend, the LU campus chapter of Habitat would likely partner with two other area organizations to sponsor construction of a home in 2007.

Beginning early Saturday afternoon, students will construct makeshift houses out of donated and salvaged materials while competing for the title of “Best Shack.” Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna and retired Appleton physician Dr. John Mielke will serve as honorary guest judges for this year’s Best Shack competition. Cash “votes” can be cast in the form of donations to change jars located in front of each shack. The shacks will remain up until mid-morning Sunday and at least one member of each team will be required to remain overnight in the shack.

Shack-a-thon 2006 will operate on a “Shackopoly” theme, complete with Chance and Community Chest cards, a “jail” and even the famous GO square stocked with information on homelessness and affordable housing issues.

Thanks to the generous support of The Boldt Company, which has thrown its construction muscle behind this year’s event, all participants will be outfitted with Shack-a-thon tee shirts supplied by the construction firm.

Beginning at 5:30 p.m., guest speakers Pat Day and Yellena Kravic will share personal insights and experiences on homelessness and affordable housing issues.

Day, a 1960 Lawrence graduate, is one of the founding volunteers of the Fox Cities chapter of Habitat for Humanity. Actively involved with the organization on a wide variety of fronts since its inception in 1993, Day was honored as Habitat’s “Volunteer of the Year” in 2004. Kravic, a 17-year-old student, moved with her family in 2000 into the Fox Cities’ first all-women built Habitat home.

Storyhill, an acoustic guitar folk duo whose music has been called “a cross between the Indigo Girls and Simon and Garfunkel,” will perform an outdoor concert on Main Hall green beginning at 8 p.m. A suggested $10 donation, with proceeds going to Habitat, is being asked from those attending the concert.

For more information about Shack-a-thon, contact the Lawrence Volunteer and Community Service Center at 920-832-6644.