Habitat Shack-a-thon raises awareness, money

The main floor of the College Union was strewn with cardboard and populated by students helping to raise money and awareness of homelessness as the Habitat for Humanity Shack-a-thon began last Friday night.

Participants worked in teams to create shacks out of cardboard boxes in one of the highest-traffic areas on campus. Students stayed with their cardboard shacks from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. to collect donations and educate others about homelessness.

"It's important to do this in the center of the college campus where everyone can see," said sophomore Becky Meissner. "Homelessness is a bigger problem than people think. People don't really acknowledge it because you don't see homeless people on the streets in Geneseo."

The Geneseo Habitat for Humanity is affiliated with the Livingston County Habitat for Humanity. Students who join on campus help provide labor and financial support for the Livingston County branch of the organization.

Senior Jessica Wade, who is now serving her second year as Habitat for Humanity's president, said that the main reason for Shack-a-thon was because the Livingston County Habitat for Humanity is in desperate need of money.

"We had to stop building this last weekend because there is basically no money left for it," she said. "We have a house that is half finished in Mount Morris, a plot of land to build on in Avon and a house in Dansville that needs to be refinished, but we can't start on these projects until we raise money for them."

Wade echoed the same frustrations as Meissner over the lack of acknowledgment of homelessness as a problem. "It is hard to get people on campus to volunteer to help the homeless because they have never experienced it and are not passionate about stopping it," she said. "It is our job to make sure they do know what a serious problem it is."

Junior Adele Costa was busy building an impressive shack, complete with windows and decorated with artwork, but said, "Habitat has no money to finish a house, so we are building this shack as a publicity stunt to collect donations."

Costa addressed the freezing temperatures that night by writing the words, "Do you think it's cold out there?" on the front of her shack, a clever way to make students think about being in a situation where they did not have a warm dorm room to return to after a walk outside in the brisk weather.

The shacks were judged on how thoroughly they were built and how many donations they collected. The winning team of the Shack-a-thon was awarded the golden hammer award. Over the course of the night, Habitat for Humanity received plenty of donations, along with the knowledge that they were helping the homeless through spreading awareness.