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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Hillel, Waltham Group join to assist Habitat for Humanity of Needham

Published: October 18, 2007
Section: Arts, Etc.

Interested in learning how to build a house for free? Hillel and Waltham Group have partnered up to assist Habitat for Humanity of Needham in building a house for a low income family.

Habitat for Humanity finds lots in residential areas that are poorly suited for building houses, buys them at bargain prices, and then recruits volunteers to build all aspects of the house, from plumbing to lighting to insulation. The organization rarely has to hire outside help, with the wide range of specialties that volunteers provide. In addition to a house in Needham, building projects are also underway in Lowell, Boston, Framingham and other areas near Brandeis. Typically, houses take about one year to build from the day ground is broken until the day a family is able to move in, with volunteers working three days a week and some weekends during times of the year when the weather is warm enough to work. Once a new owner buys the house, that person receives an interest free loan and guidance and support from Habitat for Humanity, including protection against predatory lending agencies. In return, the family is expected to help build their own house or another one for three hundred hours and is required to keep their home secure and safe.

In a presentation to Brandeis this past Sunday evening, Tim McCleary, co-chairman for Habitat for Humanity of Needham, explained how the projects allow low income families to buy and own houses that would ordinarily be out of their price range. Habitat pays for almost nothing. Volunteer groups have done an amazing job raising money through all types of events, from bake sales to school concerts to [religious] effortsweve actually hit our fundraising target. The houses are then sold to low income families at incredibly low prices, averaging $60,000 in the United States.

Thanks to Hillel and Waltham Groups efforts, Brandeis students now have the opportunity to assist in the Needham house project, just a fifteen minute drive from campus. Many of the skills required for building a house can be acquired without much training or time, and many people learn on the job. [Habitat for Humanity] helped structure the Needham project so that people who dont have lots of building experience can still be a significant part of the process, stated Leora Perkins 09, Tzedek (righteousness) coordinator for Hillel. Habitat for Humanity, which has no shortage of volunteer help, is looking forward to working with Brandeis students on the Needham house. Theyre going to set aside for specific days for us. We may only be able to bring ten to eleven people with us on each trip but hopefully well go enough times so that everyone who wants to can help, Perkins added.

Hillel, which donates money every semester to a different Brandeis organization for the sake of community service, chose to give to Habitat for Humanity now as it coincides with the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, during which many Jews live in a temporary booth or dwelling. The booths do not protect against outside air or inclement weather, and as such, Perkins explained, we felt that this holiday would be an appropriate time to become involved with Habitat for Humanity. [Hillel] felt that we would be able to connect the idea of living in a [small, insecure] structure for a week to people who are permanently stuck without homes.

Waltham Group takes a group of students on a regular basis to participate in various Habitat for Humanity projects.

Students interested in helping the building projects can find information on Waltham Group's website: