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‘Habitat’ Helpers Come From Across College’s Campuses

Whether taking hammer in hand or using considerable other talents to benefit Habitat for Humanity, members of the Pennsylvania College of Technology community have enjoyed a long-standing and mutually enriching relationship with the home-building charity.

The association was spotlighted at Penn College’s Dec. 20 Winter Commencement, when Todd J. Fox, executive director of the Greater Lycoming Habitat for Humanity (and a 1997 business management graduate of the college) received a Citizenship/Humanitarian Award. But the institution’s partnership with the nonprofit agency predates Fox’s participation if not that of many current employees who continue to volunteer with Habitat.

“We try to be involved in as much as we can, skill-wise,” said Marc E. Bridgens, interim dean of Penn College’s School of Construction and Design Technologies, who arrived on campus 19 years ago to find an already-flourishing affiliation with the nonprofit agency. “We’ve done as little as just a porch, to being involved in walls, roofing; in all parts of construction of a house.”

At one property, he said, volunteers even installed the home’s water line and heating pipes.

Students’ relationship with Habitat also was going strong when Joseph M. Younes, instructor of electrical technology/occupations, joined the faculty.

“They did estimating, worked with some great people and provided a great service to many families. The students really enjoyed working on those projects,” he said of the start of his 15-plus years at Penn College. “(They) could see and work on a real project, interact with other trades, and take home a real learning experience.”

After a lull in contact due to changes in personnel and other priorities, there has been a resurgence of cooperation between the school and Habitat.

“When I started here in 1997, we were very active with them throughout the department (carpentry, masonry, electrical, plumbing),” said Harry W. Hintz, instructor of construction technology. “We are just starting to get reinvolved, having done a lot of work for them this fall with concrete, framing and exterior finish classes. This spring, we will be helping them again with our Practical Construction class, Concrete Construction classes, possibly HVAC Practical Construction class and the Penn College Construction Association, continuing work on the houses under construction in Williamsport.”

In addition, he said, Wayne R. Sheppard, assistant professor of construction management, serves as the volunteer construction coordinator for the local Habitat office.

The college’s School of Hospitality also is a longtime benefactor of Habitat, with students crafting scrumptiously ornate chocolate creations in an annual “House for a Home” fundraiser. Continuing a 17-year tradition, students in the Principles of Chocolate Works course recently labored over 14 edible houses that were sold to the highest bidders (along with various other baked goods) as part of the college’s Food Show.

“The folks from Habitat have always enthusiastically supported our efforts related to the Chocolate House auction. The activity is a popular one with our students, staff and guests. I’ve heard that some folks actually preserve the houses from year to year!” said Fred W. Becker, dean of hospitality. “We value our relationship with Greater Lycoming Habitat for Humanity. We consider this event one of our major community-service activities.”

“Community service” is a byword at Penn College, where administrators, students and faculty/staff all are encouraged to volunteer and where Habitat frequently is the object of that altruistic spirit:

· A “Civility Saturday” exercise in early November organized by the Student Activities Office as part of an ongoing commitment to civic involvement saw employees and students (from disciplines as diverse as Web design, welding and computer-network security) at work on three Habitat for Humanity homes in Williamsport’s West End.

· Construction management majors this year also helped move the agency into its new offices, following up on a December 2007 raffle in which the students built a playhouse to raise money for Habitat.

· Over the years, other students a large group of occupational therapy assistant majors, among them also have centered their volunteer efforts on Habitat, and charitable donations have been sought on behalf of the organization as part of the balloting for homecoming king and queen.

Whatever students’ motivation, Bridgens noted that they profit in a number of ways.

“(They) get to see the philanthropic aspect of it; they see that opportunity to help,” he said. “It also requires them to work together; it really provides teamwork.”

And for construction students, among those enrolled in the college’s many practical “degrees that work,” there’s the dividend that only roll-up-your-shirtsleeves labor can provide.

“It gives them live work,” Bridgens said. “We can do as much as we can in lab, but this lets them showcase what they do, because it’s standing after they leave.”

For more information about Penn College, visit online, e-mail or call toll-free (800) 367-9222.

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