HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Habitat for Humanity of Horry County is welcoming student volunteers in Myrtle Beach for spring break trips.
The Collegiate Challenge is an alternative for the students to partying all break – volunteering their time to make an impact. Last week, students from Regis University were in town. This week, a group of students from Boston University is helping build a house in Longs. And next week, a group from Alfred State College is returning for their third consecutive year.
"When we came in on Monday, it was just slab," says Bianca Ho, a Boston University student. "And all these walls were built by us. Like, granted there were a lot of mistakes, but fixable mistakes!"
The team literally started from the ground up, with a site coordinator helping each step of the way.
"That work gets done fast. There's a lot of hands doing it. And many hands make for light work," says Derek Owsinski, the Habitat for Humanity of Horry County site supervisor.
Owsinski has more than ten year's experience framing custom houses professionally. This is his first house with Habitat in his new role as coordinator.
"The fact that they're not from this area and still willing to come in and help, that means a lot," says Owsinksi. "And Tonda the homeowner is with them here today and it's neat that they get to meet her and see that what we're doing here is so good and the people that we build houses for are very deserving."
The home being built is for Tonda Chestnut and her four children. She has been volunteering with Habitat since 2008.
"What better to do for my Spring Break than doing something good for somebody else instead of something for myself," says Tasha Odemwingie, a Boston University student. "And it's actually been a really enriching experience. I got to meet a lot of new people. I got to learn a lot about building houses. And I just feel like this is the best way I've been able to spend my Spring Break."
Chestnut is extremely invested in the home. She was on site helping frame walls along with all the other volunteers. "The homeowners work very hard for what they receive," says Owsinksi.
Each new homeowner through Habitat for Humanity Horry County has to fulfill a required amount of hours working on other people's homes before they can build their own. They call it Sweat Equity. And Chestnut has definitely put in her share.
"I've, of course, completed all of my Sweat Equity hours. I don't know, I'm pretty close to 1,000 or more. But pretty much now, I come out and then I help others. And of course if there's someone that's sick or disabled or is not able to complete those Sweat Equity hours, I'll go and complete their hours for them so they can move into their homes," says Chestnut.
And it's not just building the home, Habitat prepares these families to care for the homes too.
"They go through financial classes. And they are responsible for the mortgage. So there's an approval process. And between the classes and then the Sweat Equity, it can be a long process," says Owsinski.
Finally, it's Tonda's turn. And her family could not be more excited or grateful for the help from college students who traveled to Longs to build her house.
"It's absolutely amazing," says Chestnut. "And that they would give of their time, especially young people, giving of their Spring Break time. You know, time that they could be lounging at the beach or just having fun enjoying their young live. But coming here and to see the excitement and just to see the spirit of it all. Coming here and you know, looking for nothing in return to build a home for me and my family is absolutely wonderful. It's great."
The group from Boston University will go home after this week, but there's still plenty of work to do. So another college team will be in next week. Habitat leaders are hoping to wrap up in the next eight to ten weeks, weather permitting.
At the end of this month, Habitat for Humanity of Horry County is challenging the public to help build the house in Longs. For information on how to volunteer or prepare a volunteer trip somewhere in the county, country, or world, click here.