Students from Chicago help build houses in Cape

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The high school students are spending a week volunteering.

For most high school students, traveling nearly 400 miles on a school bus to do heavy labor in the hot sun and then sleep on a floor at night may not sound like a summer vacation, but some suburban Chicago students have done just that.

Thirty-seven students from the Providence Catholic High School chapter of Habitat for Humanity in New Lenox, Ill., arrived in Cape Girardeau Monday evening and will be working on two houses in town until Saturday afternoon. Habitat for Humanity is a volunteer organization that builds homes for low-income families.

Bianca Parra, who just graduated from Providence and is the outgoing president of the school Habitat chapter, said the group chose to come to Cape Girardeau after calling local Habitat organizations in several states. Usually, local groups charge a donation fee per volunteer, but Parra said the Cape Area Habitat for Humanity did not do that. The Cape Girardeau chapter has paid for building supplies and will finish the project after the students leave.

In return, the group will help two Cape Girardeau families by building homes on Henderson Avenue and Cousin Street.

During their time in Cape Girardeau, the students and their seven chaperones are staying at Notre Dame Regional High School, using air mattresses and sleeping bags to sleep on the cafeteria floor. A Notre Dame cafeteria worker has volunteered to cook dinner for them every night at the school.

Notre Dame assistant principal Brad Wittenborn said when members of the local Habitat chapter approached him about allowing the students to use the school, he saw an chance for his students to get involved as well.

"We had been looking for something to do locally, and with group calling from Habitat, it just seemed natural for us to do that," Wittenborn said.

About eight Notre Dame students and four faculty members have helped on the project.

"I thought I would look like an idiot when I came out here," said Hailey Brown, 15, a junior at Notre Dame. Brown said she had never really built anything before, but she did not feel uneasy for long. "They make you feel more comfortable," she said.

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