Students, faculty and staff at the College of William & Mary will work this month in partnership with Williamsburg based Housing Partnerships, Inc. (HPI) to build a house, extreme home makeover style. The basic build will occur on the campus of the College before the house is moved to its final destination in upper James City County. Construction will begin March 19 and is anticipated to take four to five weeks. Campus volunteers will work during two, two and a half hour shifts six days a week for the duration of the build. Members of the greater Williamsburg community are encouraged to join in. Volunteers wishing to help with the project should contact Liz Gentry at 221-3263, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The build came out of a collaboration between Drew Stelljes, director of William & Mary’s Office of Community Engagement and Scholarship, and Abbitt Woodall, HPI executive director, to find a way to make volunteer opportunities with Housing Partnerships as accessible as possible to William & Mary students.
William & Mary has a long standing relationship with HPI. Woodall himself is a William & Mary alum (’02) and thousands of students, faculty and staff have volunteered with the agency over the years. Retired physics professor Harlan Schone has volunteered with Housing Partnerships for 25 years, most weeks volunteering upwards of 30 hours and will spearhead this project.
Still, Stelljes notes, there’s always room for more involvement especially when the need is so great.
“I hope this project spurs on a group of students that might not otherwise volunteer and makes it easy for them to get started,” said Stelljes. “It's a big task, but a unique service and learning opportunity.”
The home’s indoor plumbing and central heat and air conditioning will be welcome amenities for its new owner, a single senior citizen, currently living without them.
According to the 2000 Census there were 82 houses in the greater Williamsburg area that still lacked indoor plumbing. HPI’s mission is to repair or replace substandard housing in the community. In accordance with this mission, HPI administers PIPE (Providing Indoor Plumbing to Everyone), a program begun by the Leadership Historic Triangle Class of 2007 to add indoor plumbing to homes in the greater Williamsburg area that lack it.
“This is an outstanding opportunity to engage the students, faculty and staff at William & Mary with Housing Partnerships to help people in need in our community. Though we’ve enjoyed strong volunteer support from students for many years, this project enables HPI to bring the service project to the campus – literally making service possible right in their own back yard, said Woodall.”
Woodall and Stelljes hope, in addition to bringing awareness to volunteer opportunities in the community, the project will serve to educate both the campus and greater Williamsburg community about the plight of some of its poorest citizens.
"It is our hope that community members will take notice of our progress and learn about housing needs in Williamsburg and James City County,” added Stelljes. “Students in my freshman seminar will coordinate a variety of activities aimed at providing education regarding community needs."
While HPI focuses on emergency repairs that are necessary to enable clients to safely live in their homes, when a home has gone beyond the point of repair they work with the homeowner to demolish the home and replace it with a modest new one.
The house being constructed for the William & Mary campus project is an approximately 490 square foot model including a living area with kitchen, a bathroom and one bedroom. It will be constructed on the lawn adjacent to Jamestown dorm at the corner of Jamestown Rd. and Landrum Dr.
Housing Partnerships will provide all of the materials for the project through the generosity of some great community partners.
Final touches will be added to the home once it is on its permanent foundation in upper James City County. Local home mover, ACE Movers, has agreed to move the structure to its final home at the conclusion of the campus build.
Over the past 25 years HPI has completed more than 1700 home repairs and provided 55 homeownership opportunities utilizing 25,000 volunteers who provided 170,000 volunteer hours.
Annually William & Mary students contribute more than 320,000 volunteer service hours in the greater Williamsburg community.