Students give back in Jacksonville on Habitat for Humanity service trip

Students worked closely with Habijax, which has given over 2,000 families the opportunity to have affordable housing. Photo courtesy of Nikki Klatka.
Students worked closely with Habijax, which has given over 2,000 families the opportunity to have affordable housing. Photo courtesy of Nikki Klatka.

By Lauren Trumbull

Editorial & Features Editor

From Jan. 7–14, director of the Center for Service and Social Justice, Jamie Gerhart, and a group of DeSales students had the opportunity to take part in a service trip in Jacksonville, FL to aid Habitat for Humanity.

Millard and Linda Fuller founded Habitat for Humanity formed the idea of “partnership housing,” which means that people in need of shelter work side-by-side with volunteers to build a home. Fundraising and supporters not only provide families with a home, but also help with house payments and no-interest loans.

Beau and Emma and their five children became the first family to own a home built through “partnership housing.” Since then, Habitat spans to nearly 70 countries and has given 6.8 million people a home, and for a week, students had the opportunity to contribute to the international non-profit.

Junior Nikki Klatka went on this year’s trip to Jacksonville and last year’s trip to Dade City, FL.

“This one was definitely a little different than the last trip that I was on with DeSales. Last time we had our own little Habitat house that we stayed in that was kind of away from everything else. We also worked very closely with older ‘caravaners’ that volunteered with Habitat as well. However, the jobs were fairly similar and despite the fact that the trips were a little different from each other, they are always really amazing experiences.”

For a week, the volunteers woke up at 6:30 a.m. and were out the door by 7:30 a.m. to start their day of work. A typical day included working at the offices of Habitat for Humanity Jacksonville, Inc. or going to a Habitat home to paint.

“My favorite part was painting the houses. I found it so fun to be with great people and jamming out to some music while painting,” said junior Grace Esbensen.

Students also had the opportunity to learn how to build and put up siding.

“My favorite part of the trip was getting the opportunity to learn how to put siding up and getting to meet some
new people from Habitat in Jacksonville,” said Klatka.

At around 3 p.m. the group would head back to a church on the outskirts of Jacksonville where they stayed and enjoyed free time to themselves.

“We visited St. Augustine, which was absolutely beautiful, other nights we went around the town and then all did a bowling night,” said Esbensen.

But for the students, attending the trip wasn’t about bowling nights, exploring Jacksonville or visiting St. Augustine.

“I wanted to give back to the community and make a difference for others. I wanted to appreciate all that I have and spread some of that to others,” said Esbensen.