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Release: Sept. 16, 1999

UI chapter of Habitat for Humanity builds first house

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The UI Campus Chapter of Habitat for Humanity is building its first-ever house.

The 200-member chapter -- with help from UI faculty, Greek organizations and Iowa City's three Rotary Clubs and others -- raised the roughly $40,000 needed to build the three-bedroom house at 2679 Indigo Court. The group, made up mostly of students, is also contributing time and labor, along with the house's future owners, Brett and Kristina Halter and their three children.

University of Iowa President Mary Sue Coleman will visit the site, located off Whispering Prairie Drive just south of Highway 6, at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 18. Students and other volunteers will be drywalling and siding the house, which was framed this past weekend.

The work is expected to be completed in mid-October, with a formal dedication ceremony to follow shortly after.

Sara James, former president of the chapter and team leader on the project, said that after more than a year of planning and fundraising she's excited to see the house finally come together.

"We've worked so hard for so long now. It's an awesome feeling," said James, a senior from Belmond, who is majoring in exercise science. "It's always been a goal in the back of everyone's mind that this is what we're working towards."

Habitat for Humanity International is a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry that seeks to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world, and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action. Founded in 1976 by Millard and Linda Fuller, the organization has built almost 80,000 houses around the world, providing some 400,000 people in more than 2,000 communities with safe, decent, affordable shelter.

Created about three years ago, the UI chapter has helped the Iowa City chapter of Habitat build a number of houses. Last year UI chapter members decided to strike out on their own.

"Originally we thought spring of '99 would be our target date, but we didn't get the funds raised in time," James said. "By May we knew we'd break ground in August."

James said the group first tried to raise money by sponsoring activities, such as face-painting at sporting events and two 5-kilometer runs, but competition from other organizations was stiff. After hearing Habitat co-founder Millard Fuller speak last September, the group decided to start a Square Foot Club whereby people could "buy" a square foot of the house for $40.

The effort netted the chapter $5,000, mostly from UI faculty. Other donations, including $15,000 from the Rotary Clubs and $6,000 from the Greeks, made up the difference.

Robert Wiley, a professor in the UI College of Pharmacy and member of the Iowa City Noon Rotary Club, said that even with the Rotary Clubs' donations, the students deserve praise for their work on the house.

"To do what they did was pretty remarkable," Wiley said. "Affordable housing is one of the real problems we have in the country and Iowa City. I think the students are to be commended for taking on such an ambitious project.