By JENNA MANTO
At Habitat for Humanity’s first meeting as a new campus chapter, Vice President Pierre Valverde, a sophomore pre-law political science major, did not expect a big turnout, so he rented a small room on campus. They ended up with such a large turnout at the meeting that people were sitting on the floor and standing wall to wall, cramped in the small room.
President Patryk Klimek, a junior pre-dental biology major, and Valverde co-founded the seventh Habitat chapter in Florida at UT.
Habitat for Humanity, also known as Habitat, is an international organization that helps build houses for those in need. For Klimek, working with the nonprofit is nothing new. He worked with Habitat for five years before coming to UT.
While the process of applications and approvals to move forward began in the Fall, the chapter was not officially chartered until this semester.
The chapter’s four main goals are fundraising, recruitment, service and education.
In terms of education and advocacy, the chapter works toward educating people about Habitat and what they do. Many people approach UT’s Habitat chapter without an understanding of how it works, according to Klimek. It’s not a free house that people are receiving; they must help build the house in order to receive it.
The chapter’s main goal for this semester is to recruit more members so they can do more service work over the summer and during the fall semester. They currently have about 25 to 30 members.
To be an active member, the chapter expects members to complete around four to five hours of service a month. By attending meetings or contacting Klimek, members can find out what service opportunities are available.
“The chapter is for people who really want to direct their service to habitat,” Klimek said.
To become an official general member, one must pay $20 dues each semester for which they will receive a t-shirt; the rest is donated to Habitat for Humanity. Meetings are held every other Monday at 8 p.m. in Vaughn, either room 212 or 219, for general members. The executive board meets every Sunday at 8 p.m. If members cannot attend the general meetings, they are welcome to attend the executive board meetings. The next general member meeting will be the Monday following spring break, March 13.
UT’s Habitat chapter also works with the Habitat for Humanity of Hillsborough County, with Volunteer Services Manager Victoria Richards. She works as an extension between UT and Habitat for Humanity, helping to establish their chapter status and coordinate members’ schedules for build days where students can build houses on site.
“Members of our campus chapters are vital volunteers for Habitat for Humanity of Hillsborough County,” Richards said. “The effort that we get during those build days and the experience that they get with forming relationships with our staff, and having that extension there from the University of Tampa toward the Habitat affiliate, it really does form lifelong commitments to community service.”
For two weekends in a row, on Feb. 11 and 18, the UT chapter helped build two houses, one in West Tampa and one in Gibsonton, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. About eight to 10 members volunteered those two weekends helping with the building process doing interior work such as installing cabinets, cleaning, and working on framing.
Richards mentioned that in a fiscal year Habitat for Humanity builds about 12 homes, and about three at one time, each in different stages of being completed.
While any organization on campus could directly volunteer with Hillsborough County’s Habitat for Humanity in the past, they should now contact UT’s Habitat chapter first to be able to volunteer. Richards stated that while organizations can still contact her directly, it is more efficient to go through UT’s chapter as they will be given priority status for a volunteer opportunity.
In the next year or two, Habitat hopes to get a sponsorship, which would enable another Habitat chapter, preferably from out of state, to come help UT build houses in Hillsborough County, and UT’s members would travel to help the other Habitat chapter build houses in their county.
The chapter will also be searching for passionate leaders to take over once Klimek and Valverde graduate.
“One of our big goals is to make sure that when we leave that there is somebody that would take over this kind of group because we want this to continue where in 50 years people are still doing this,” Klimek said.
Jenna Manto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.