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The house that W&M built gets ready to move

  • Down the home stretch
    Down the home stretch  As the house gets prepared for the move to its final location tomorrow, Min Yoo '13 made some final touches to a welcome banner for the new tenant.  Photo by Erin Zagursky
  • The finished product
    The finished product  The project, which started March 19th, was completed with the help of hundreds of students, faculty, and staff volunteers from all across the mid-Atlantic region.  Photo by Isshin Teshima
  • The final touches
    The final touches  One of the steps that volunteers had to do in order to prepare the house for the move was to remove the sheet rock from inside the house.  Photo by Erin Zagursky
  • Waiting for a new owner
    Waiting for a new owner  The inside of the house consists of a living room, bathroom, and bedroom ready to be furnished by the new owner.  Photo by Isshin Teshima
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Atop a flatbed truck in the middle of Barksdale Field on Friday afternoon, a yellow banner bearing the words "Welcome Home!" was unfurled. The students who created the sign weren't just responsible for the "welcome" part of the poster. They had also made the "home" a reality for one Williamsburg community member.

Over the past month, dozens of William & Mary students, faculty, staff, alumni joined with Housing Partnerships Inc. (HPI) to build a home from scratch for a community member in need. On Friday afternoon, many of the students, faculty, staff and Housing Partnerships members who worked on the project gathered to celebrate its success. This morning, the near-finished residence was moved to its permanent location in James City County. It is expected to be completed there within the next two weeks, with more help from the campus community.

"I feel like we've achieved something," said Min Yoo '13. "I hope this remains as a sustainable project that the campus and the community can work on together because we're living together."

Drew Stelljes, director of community engagement for William & Mary, said that the project had three aims.

"First was to build a safe, warm, dry home for one of our community members," he said. "Second was to involve as many staff, students, alumni and community members on a project that we could work on together. That the culminating effort would be something to make the quality of life for one of our community members better. And third was to provide an opportunity for us to educate our campus on the realities and the complexities of low-income housing and the need for low-income housing in the Williamsburg/James City County Area."

He added that he is very happy with how everything and everyone came together, and it will likely become an annual project for the College.

"This has been a great project for us," he said. "To think, only a few months ago, Abbitt (Woodall, executive director of HPI) and I were considering the possibility of building a house on campus. To see it come to fruition in such a short time really means a lot. It demonstrates that our campus community can come together and work alongside Housing Partnerships, bring together students, faculty and alumni on a really meaningful project that will help an elderly woman have a home that she can be really proud of."

Yoo helped create the welcome home poster that will be placed in the house before its move. She said that the students wanted to make the woman who is receiving the house feel welcome. Yoo was one of the Sharpe Community Scholars in Stelljes' class who researched issues of homelessness and affordable housing before doing hands-on construction work on the project this semester.

"We cannot eliminate homelessness in Williamsburg, but we can try step-by-step to alleviate the problem," she said.

Although she had never done any construction work before this project, Yoo said she was looking forward to doing it again next year.

"It was hard ... but it was really worth it," she said. "We're totally proud and we're happy that we've done something for the community."