Bell County, Kentucky and Forsyth County, North Carolina will be receiving their share of Castleton hospitality later this month.
Student members of the Castleton Rotaract and Habitat Clubs saw Spring Break as the perfect opportunity to branch out and offer help to communities outside of Vermont.
The Rotaract Club will be traveling to help in one of the poorest counties in the United States, Bell County, which has a median income between both parents of under $10,000 per year.
The Habitat Club will be bussing down to Forsyth County. Each club’s affiliates, the Fair Haven Rotary Club and Habitat for Humanity of Rutland County, respectively, helped their collegiate contemporaries determine what areas of the country needed help most.
This year marks the fifth year the Habitat Club has volunteered outside of Vermont, and second year for the Rotaract Club.
Last year, in only its second year as a Castleton club, Rotaract students went all the way to Honduras, bringing in tow 11 suitcases worth of everyday necessities we may take for granted here in America. The trip was in association with the foundation Pure Water for the World, and the club members also helped to build a school and paint a rehabilitation center while there.
“Last year was more of a relief trip. It really helped supplies-wise and it was also just emotionally good for people to see, ya know, people really do care,” said Rotaract President Danny Warnecke.
For this year’s trip, the club is doing something similar to what Habitat for Humanity does, which is building houses for families in need.
“So our mission (in Kentucky) is to take this family home and pretty much just bring it back to life. We’re putting new siding on, we’re going to be putting an entire new roof on, we’re going to be replacing a lot of windows and doors and I think we’re going to be doing a few minor projects on the inside as well,” Warnecke said.
For the Habitat Club, this will be their second year helping in North Carolina. The club over the years has visited and built homes in Tennessee, Kentucky and Georgia. This year’s trip holds immense significance, however, because when club members arrive back, they will have completed over 1,000 hours volunteering with Habitat for Humanity.
The accomplishments each club has achieved warrant great pride, but Warnecke and Habitat President Kelly Mills had very similar, humble reactions when asked why they do what they do.
They shifted their eyes to the ground, or to the ceiling, lost in thought and recollection of all of the selfless reasons why they joined their clubs.
“I really enjoy seeing the looks on the house recipients’ faces when their house is finished and when we’re working alongside them. It’s really, I don’t know, comforting to me … I’m helping somebody achieve something that they probably thought could never be possible for them,” Mills said.
Warnecke gave comparable reasoning, adding that his family always encouraged him to be involved with his community and his religion also inspires him to try and help other people.
Months upon months of planning and fund-raising are essential to making trips happen. With the countdown dwindling down, club members can’t help but be anxious and excited.
“What I’m most excited for about the Kentucky trip is the look on people’s faces when they realize that the unhealthy home they have been living in is now re-done and safe to live in again,” said Rotaract Club member Elly Zelazny.
Others love the feel of completion when the project is finished.
“For this upcoming trip to North Carolina, I’m most excited about building. Last year when we arrived on the site on day one it was nothing but a concrete slab and by the end of the week we were able to lock the front door. It’s incredible to see how much progress a group of 20 people can accomplish in a short amount of time,” said Habitat Club fund-raising coordinator J’Leen Diaz. “It makes it even more worthwhile knowing that we are doing it for a family.”
The presidents of both clubs gave credit to their club members. Warnecke said much of what makes the experience of the club so enjoyable is the great individuals he gets to work with. The trips also allow club members to better get to know and bond with each other, while working together to accomplish the same common goal.
“Everybody’s just so willing to help other people and it’s not something you really typically see. I mean yeah, friends help friends out, but this is helping strangers, people you don’t even know or you won’t even have contact with ever again. So it’s just different, it’s really nice,” Mills said.