Community Engagement in Action: Lawrence University Habitat Chapter Building Home in Appleton

APPLETON, WIS. — Every spring since 2002, Lawrence University students have spent a weekend in May turning the Main Hall green into a temporary shantytown. Teams of students would construct makeshift living quarters from salvaged and donated materials and spend the night sleeping in them.

Sponsored by the campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity, the annual “Shack-a-thon” program was designed to raise awareness about homelessness and issues of affordable housing as well as funds to support the Fox Cities chapter of Habitat for Humanity.

Six Shack-a-thons, and more than $20,000 later, those efforts are being rewarded in a very meaningful and tangible way. Led by student members of the campus chapter of Habitat, Lawrence is partnering with J.J. Keller in co-sponsoring the construction of a Habitat for Humanity home on the northeast side of Appleton. Work on the four-bedroom ranch house located two miles from campus began in early October. It is scheduled to be completed Dec. 8.

Since the Lawrence chapter of Habitat was founded in 1999, student members have worked on a variety of projects across the country, including a record 45 students who participated in Habitat’s 2007 Collegiate Challenge project in New Orleans. The chapter is planning a trip to Latin America during 2008’s spring break. Kristin Morgan, student president of the campus Habitat chapter, says the organization is excited about getting involved on a local project of their own.

“Appleton hosts Lawrence students, faculty and staff from across the globe every year, providing unique opportunities for linking the lessons of the classroom with the greater community,” said Morgan. “The Lawrence co-sponsored home is hopefully one way for the university to say ‘thank you’ to Appleton and continue Habitat’s mission of strengthening communities by helping families own safe and secure homes, including one right here in Lawrence’s own backyard.”

Work on the house, under the supervision of Fox Cities Area Habitat for Humanity officials, is scheduled on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. A lunch is provided on-site. According to Morgan, J.J. Keller, as co-sponsor of the build, has permitted Lawrence to take the lead on all of the project’s volunteer opportunities in support of Youth Leadership.

“The Lawrence campus has helped raise the financial foundation for the home and J.J. Keller has generously allowed all the volunteer hours to be filled by Lawrentians,” said Morgan. “As a campus community, Lawrence contains an array of diverse talents and together those talents have limitless possibilities. The ‘Lawrence Built’ home marks the potential of a promising future led by civic-minded and actively engaged Lawrentians. The Habitat home is an exciting opportunity to highlight the positive possibilities of youth’s influence in community development.”

Each work session on the house will feature specific projects for the day, covering the full range of construction, including the installation of support beams and sill plates, building stud walls, insulating, roof work, siding, installing windows and doors, hanging cabinets and final landscaping.

Sign-up sheets are posted in the entrance of Downer Commons and all student groups and organizations, as well as individual students, faculty and staff members are encouraged to help with this worthy project. To enable as many volunteers as possible to participate, work schedules have been broken down into two half-day sessions: 8 a.m. -noon and noon – 4 p.m. No experience is necessary to participate and rides from campus to the work site will be provided for anyone who needs one. Questions regarding the project can be directed to

Check out the project and see the work that has been completed so far.