Joliet Catholic Academy student Michael Murray said finding a way to giveback to the community in a way that brings great meaning is very important to him. So, when the idea arose to recruit classmates to start a campus chapter to help support Will County Habitat for Humanity, he took action to make it a reality.
“I actually thought of it as a perfect opportunity,” he said. “Years before, I went on a trip to Africa. Joliet Catholic Academy teacher Mark Clarke had been there. My mom being the executive director of Will County Habitat for Humanity, it struck me as a great way to serve.”
The work of Will County Habitat for Humanity is driven by the international organization’s effort to provide a space to learn, spread the word of its mission, provide opportunities to get involved in construction, work toward homeownership, support retail through the ReStore, raise funds and advocate for others.
“Our whole idea with the campus chapters is that it is bringing the community together with volunteer experiences,” Will County Habitat for Humanity executive director Nicole Murray said. “It’s our job—as Mr. Clarke knows we’ve talked about—to make sure that when there is a project that they get the full experience.”
Clarke said the idea behind starting a group at Joliet Catholic Academy surfaced a little more than a year ago, at which point Michael approached him about serving as a sponsor.
“It’s a good opportunity for our kids to get out of school and volunteer, but not just volunteer piecemeal, like many high schools have their students doing,” he said. “This is with an international organization, and it’s more of an educational approach, as Murray was saying. Students learn different steps and processes that Habitat has set up in their constitution for us to abide by.”
Clarke added, “Habitat for Humanity, for our chapter, like I said, gives them a little more direction as to what they can do. There are a lot of different avenues they can go.”
A Will County Habitat for Humanity campus chapter is already established for students at Providence Catholic High School. Another one is currently forming at Plainfield East High School.
When classes resume this fall, Joliet Catholic Academy's new campus chapter will typically begin meeting monthly.
Between Will County Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, the neighborhood revitalization program, home repair services, new construction and rehabs, there are a plethora of ways for students to get involved.
“There’s always opportunities, and we just find what’s the best fit for the students at the time,” Nicole said.
Michael said he is excited for the group to start meeting.
“I personally became intrigued because Will County Habitat for Humanity gives hand-ups, not handouts,” he said. “Houses are given in aid to people in need, and they work for it. I don’t think they should be just given a house, but everyone needs a home. ... That’s part of why I support Habitat for Humanity.”
To date, the Joliet Catholic Academy campus chapter consists of 52 students.
“The kids are looking forward it,” Clarke said. “It’s gotten a lot of interest.”
Nicole said the early excitement generated for the campus chapter is easy to pinpoint.
“I think the biggest difference with volunteering or being part of a Habitat—there’s so many charities that you can support—but the one difference that Habitat brings is the whole experience and it’s so tangible,” she said. “If we talk specifically a home, you can see the shovel go in the ground, and the house is starting to be built, it’s framed, then you see the house completed, then you see a family move in.”
Over its 29 years, Will County Habitat for Humanity has put 75 families into homes in Joliet, Crest Hill, Bolingbrook, Lockport and Plainfield
“Habitat, it’s a great brand,” Nicole said. “When you say Habitat, there’s not many people that don’t know what Habitat is… I think really because Habitat is such a great brand and knowing what we do.”
To start a new Habitat for Humanity Will County campus chapter, contact Ron Novak, the assistant executive director at firstname.lastname@example.org.