Williams: Students' sense of charity needs work

As far as charitable organizations go, Habitat for Humanity is one of the best. The Livingston County chapter has existed for over 20 years and has provided at least 12 local families with safe, low-cost homes.

Since 1976, Habitat for Humanity International has built over 350,000 houses for people who need them most with help from hundreds of thousands of dedicated volunteers. Much less impressive is the dedication to Habitat from the students in the Geneseo community.

At the beginning of this semester, the few extremely committed individuals who held the Geneseo chapter of Habitat for Humanity together decided that without increased participation by the student body, it would not be possible to continue to exist as an official organization.

The Livingston County chapter of Habitat depends on volunteers from this campus to go on work trips every Saturday to help both at the build site in Mount Morris and the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. It's actually really fun, kind of like playing Bob the Builder for a day. If no one shows up for the work trips, however, both work sites are short-staffed and the Geneseo student body fails in its commitment to the other volunteers, to the families that need a home and to the overall mission of Habitat for Humanity.

This is embarrassing. Looking at it from a purely physical perspective, there are over 5,000 able-bodied students at Geneseo. Anyone who has been to the gym at 4 in the afternoon knows that we have more than enough energy and physical strength to share with the community. If we harnessed even a small fraction of that vitality and used it for a few hours on a Saturday morning, we could build a house in no time.

What does this say about our character? Work trips begin at 8:45 a.m. Yes, we all acknowledge that that is really, really, painfully early. But the beautiful thing about Habitat at Geneseo is that you do not have to be present for every single work trip; you can go once a semester or every week as long as you sign up and actually show up for duty on Saturday morning.

So what this tells me is that as a college, we are so apathetic about our own community, literally an area within 20 minutes of MacVittie College Union, that we cannot even consistently produce 10 students willing to wake up before 9 a.m. to help out on a Saturday morning.

Ouch, Geneseo. Obviously this is not the only club with a charitable mission on campus, but it is one of the few clubs where you can put something into it and get physical proof of a good deed. Thankfully, enough people showed interest in Habitat this semester that the club will not be shutting down, but hopefully this near-tragic loss will serve as a campus wake up call.

The ubiquity of fundraisers and events to support the victims of the disaster in Haiti proves that we are a compassionate group of people willing to put in some work to help other people. What is confusing is that the people who would do anything for Haiti (going on a work trip there would mean risking one's dysentery-free existence) are the same ones who refuse to support a local Habitat for Humanity chapter.

Can we fix this, Geneseo? Yes, we can.