Baylor Students' 'First Step' Makes Big Impression on Community

  • News Photo 4241
    Students work to frame a house with Baylor Habitat for Humanity.
  • News Photo 4242
    Colleyville freshman Emily Underwood swings a hammer to help frame the house.
  • News Photo 4244
    Students move a completed piece of the house frame to its place with the rest of the structure.
  • News Photo 4247
    The completed frame remained on campus for one week to draw support for the project. It was moved to its permanent location and is scheduled for completion in November.
  • News Photo 4243
    Baylor students give a fresh coat of paint to the exterior of the historic Waco Hippodrome Theater.
  • News Photo 4245
    Students paint rails near the Waco Suspension Bridge.
  • News Photo 4249
    More than 1,000 students participated in the clean-up effort on Baylor's campus and in the Waco community.
Sept. 4, 2007

by Katie Brooks, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805

Together, they removed the graffiti scrawled on the walls of downtown Waco businesses. They cleared away debris from the flood waters of the Brazos River, vastly improving walking paths in a scenic part of the city. And they laid the foundation for their collective Baylor experience by framing a Habitat for Humanity house for a local family.

In one morning, Baylor University's freshman class of more than 2,700 students was introduced to the central importance of service and vocation in their lives as they participated in the "First Step" community service project Aug. 18 during Welcome Week.

More than 1,000 new students provided clean-up efforts to dozens of downtown Waco businesses and locations and saw actual results by the end of the service experience, said Karin Klinger, associate director for student activities.

"Students worked hard, laughed a lot and were able to connect with one another and with members of the Waco community. The upperclassmen student leaders involved said it was the best First Step experience Baylor has facilitated in years," Klinger said.

Hundreds of members of Baylor's Class of 2011 took part that Saturday morning in Project Build Hope, by framing the first Habitat for Humanity home to be fully funded by Baylor's chapter of the non-profit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry. The house-framing project also celebrated the 20th anniversary of Baylor Habitat, the first collegiate chapter of the organization.

"The framing went exceptionally well. All the student groups moved through the site efficiently and enthusiastically, and we had a well-framed house by the end of the day," said Anna Sauer, a senior accounting major from Fredericksburg and treasurer for Baylor Habitat.

Sauer was glad so many freshmen had the opportunity to learn about Habitat for Humanity and take part in something as important as the 20th anniversary house raising.

"I hope that their experience with us that day will be ranked among their favorite memories at Baylor," she said.

During the following week as the frame remained on campus, Baylor Habitat members held an "open house" to help spread the word about its mission. Students and faculty who passed by the frame signed it and wrote encouraging messages to the family. Habitat members said that although the messages eventually will be covered when the house is complete, the encouragement and hope will be woven forever in the innermost part of the house.

Baylor Habitat moved the house Aug. 25 to its permanent location with 15 volunteers disassembling and transporting the frame, said Sonya Maness, a senior archaeology and museum studies major from Houston and president of Baylor Habitat.

She said the next step in the building process is to finish covering the house with oriented strand board (OSB) and placing the trusses (roof) in place.

"Think of a house as a human body. We have the skeleton in place, covered with a little muscle," Maness said.

Baylor Habitat will dedicate the house at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, at 1117 Brown St. in Waco. Guests will include community members and leaders, Baylor Habitat members, Waco Habitat staff and friends of the receiving family, Maness said.

At the dedication, Baylor Habitat officers will present the new homeowners with gifts for their home, she said.

"Habitat for Humanity is a program that reaches beyond simply providing a family with a home. Habitat creates stable and sustainable neighborhoods, making our city a better place to live. It teaches college students how to live outside of themselves, and it brings people from all walks of life together for a common good," Maness said.

For more information, contact Klinger at (254) 710-6936 or Karin_Klinger@baylor.edu.

For information about Baylor Habitat, contact Maness at Sonya_Maness@baylor.edu.

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