Habitat gets help, donation, from a Pennsylvania university

Published 12:18 am Sunday, February 24, 2008

Students from Villanova University in Pennsylvania came to Picayune to help Pearl River County’s Habitat for Humanity build two houses currently under construction.

During the visit, the group of 27 students and two professors brought with them a donation from the Karr Family Foundation, based in Pennsylvania.

“We periodically make donations to charities. This was an easy one to make,” said Bob Nydick, a professor of management at Villanova. “It was really easy to see their good work going on down here.”

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Nydick said with larger organizations it is more difficult to see where their donations go, but with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity the work is clear.

The donation totaled $75,000 and will help Pearl River County’s Habitat for Humanity finish the two houses under construction on South Haugh and will help fund ground breaking for two more houses next door.

Work conducted Friday and Saturday on the two houses included insulation and dry wall installation. If the weather permitted, the group planned to do some siding work, said Villanova professor Daniel Wright.

On a previous trip, the professor said he and another group of students from the university framed and put roof sheeting on the same homes they worked on Friday and Saturday.

“It’s a lot of work for those two days,” Nydick said.

While this is Nydick’s 14th Habitat for Humanity trip, this is his first time to work on the same house.

The group from Villanova flew into New Orleans on Thursday and began work Friday morning. Thursday evening they had a chance to meet the families they were helping.

Work will continue Saturday, but Sunday the group plans to attend church services in New Orleans before enjoying some free time touring the Big Easy in the afternoon.

All of the students paid their own way to get to Picayune and even brought a donation of their own from last year’s class. Each year students at the university raise money to donate to various causes. This year the group brought $1,000 from the last year’s student efforts to add to the $75,000 donation from the Karr Family Foundation.

Villanova Management and Business Law student John Ducci said he is enjoying his first time on a Habitat for Humanity trip. Ducci said previously he had worked with the Habitat for Humanity in Connecticut.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to find myself on a another one of these,” Ducci said.

That may be hard since the school fervently supports students taking trips like these, prompting a large amount of student response.

“You honestly have to wait in line if you want to volunteer,” Ducci said.

This week’s trip was the third a group has made to help Pearl River County’s Habitat for Humanity. Three other trips have been made to help other Gulf Coast region efforts recover from Hurricane Katrina.

Gene Yeager with Habitat for Humanity said the organization will apply for a grant to match the donation provided by Villanova. While the local Habitat group has not yet submitted the application, members feel confident they will get the funds.

Nydick said another trip is planned for October where Villanova students plan to help with the construction of at least one of the other two homes on Haugh Street.

Several people have asked Nydick why he donates his time to bring students to Habitat for Humanity projects.

“If I have to explain it, they won’t understand it,” Nydick said.

He said while the experience will not change a student’s life, it is an experience they will not forget.

Donna Fischer with Pearl River County Habitat for Humanity said she expects to be able to dedicate at least one of the homes being built to the eligible family by May 16. Fischer actually would like to be able to dedicate both of the homes by that date but cannot guarantee it.

The time and work Villanova donated to Habitat for Humanity in Pearl River County is appreciated.

“Villanova has been our guardian angel,” said Habitat representative Martha Sheppard.

Additionally, Villanova recognized the efforts of Pearl River County’s Habitat for Humanity.

“This is the most well run and organized Habitat organization,” Wright said.

Local organizations also donated some assistance to the cause. Fischer said Joey Douglas of Douglas Drywall donated the Sheetrock that will be installed in the homes. Local builder Dennis Collier also is donating his time as construction supervisor, Fischer said.