Building from the ground up

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March 26, 2010

6:32 AM

Students at the College of William and Mary know Jamestown Field as the location of the College’s newest residence halls. Its newest project, however, will not house students, but one of Williamsburg’s neediest residents.

Volunteers from the College have teamed with the Williamsburg Housing Partnership, Inc. to construct a new home for a city resident currently living in meager accommodations.

Director of Community Engagement Drew Stelljes said that HPI had several goals in the construction of the house.

“First [is] to build a warm, safe and dry home for a resident of our community,” Stelljes said in an e-mail to The Flat Hat. “Second [is] to generate awareness of the housing needs of some of our neighbors.”

The cost of the project is expected to total $35,000. Once construction is completed, the mortgage will be transferred to the homeowner.

Stelljes said that the idea for the building project came from a discussion between himself and Abbitt Woodall ’02.

“One day, Abbitt and I were considering new and innovative ways to get students, faculty, alumni and community involved,” Stelljes said. “We both thought it would be ideal to have a house build on campus. We quickly contacted a variety of people at [the College] and in the City of Williamsburg. All were enthusiastic. The project has unfolded in just a few months.”

One of the groups HPI contacted to help with the project was the College’s Sharpe Community Scholars program.

“[We want] to get the William and Mary community involved,” Jamonika Williams ’13, a Sharpe scholar, said. “We’re known for our community service. Getting students involved is a good way to strengthen the community. We were actually looking around for a project, and this was the perfect opportunity.”

Volunteers said that the build location was chosen to facilitate the construction of the house.

“It’s a nice open space, and it’s a good place to get student volunteers,” Schone said.
The house’s future resident currently lives in a trailer that lacks basic amenities.

“[She is] living in a trailer, which is falling down,” HPI volunteer and former College physics professor Harlan Schone said. “Housing Partnership and the county wanted to help, and we’re doing it by destroying her trailer, but only after we have a replacement house.”

While the recipient of this house has running water, according to Stelljes, a lack of indoor plumbing is a concern for many members of the Williamsburg community.

“Dozens of James City County residents are still without indoor plumbing,” he said. “Providing indoor plumbing to all of our residents is one of HPI’s goals.”

Although HPI has no plans for a future building project at the present time, Stelljes said that they would like to make it a yearly event.

“Together we will raise a house each spring and build a home for our neighbor,” Stelljes said.

Stelljes said that the building project could help unite the Williamsburg community.

“The outpouring of interest has been incredible. The phone has been ringing non-stop,” he said. “It is wonderful to witness students and community members working on a house together in order to improve the lives of our neighbors.”

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