Habitat for Humanity hosts dedication ceremony for house student volunteers helped build

A ceremony celebrating the Ellison family's new home, built by Baylor's Habitat for Humanity chapter, was hosted Thursday evening. Katy Mae Turner | Photographer

Raylee Foster | Staff Writer

Habitat for Humanity Waco Executive Director John Alexander said the organization has had over a dozen Baylor students working to build 182 houses, including a house built for Emily Ellison and her husband, who had a dedication ceremony for it on Thursday.

“A lot of Baylor students have helped build this house from different organizations, fraternities, student groups, Baylor Habitat, and it’s always great,” Alexander said. “They’re our number one source of volunteers for Habitat during the school year, so they’ve been a great help in building the Ellison’s new home.”

In 1987, Baylor began the first college Habitat for Humanity chapter. During COVID-19, the chapter’s impact was stunted for two years, but this year the volunteers were able to engage with the community again.

Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., senior and Baylor Habitat for Humanity Chapter President Kat Neumann said the program allows students to engage with the communities and make a visible difference.

“It is a wonderful way to spend a Saturday, and it’s offered every week, but even if you do it once a month it feels really amazing, as well as being an engaging experience where you’re making a physical difference right in front of you,” Neumann said. “You definitely feel like you’re making a valuable impact.”

Ellison, a new Habitat homeowner, said she and her husband were able to work alongside the Baylor students while building their new home, and are grateful for the work they did through the project.

“I was able to meet a few of the students, my husband worked with a lot of them while we were doing all the framing and the exterior work and all of that and they were a gem,” Ellison said.

Without Habitat for Humanity, Ellison said her family would not be able to have a house. The program allowed for the couple to purchase the house with zero mortgage, and will continue to build a relationship with them for 30 years. The program helps with property taxes, homeowners insurance and any issues that arise from being new homeowners. Ellison said this house will be filled with “firsts” for her children.

“We’re a family of four and we’re really excited our kids get their own bedrooms, which they’ve never had before,” Ellison said. “We’ve really made it unique and individualized, and one of the things we’re especially excited about is the backyard.”

Ellison also said she encourages students to participate in the program because it not only benefits the families whose houses they are building, but it is a way for students to improve the city they live in.

“Baylor students definitely should participate because it’s something that’s really amazing, one for you personally and your resume, as well as just helping develop … and grow Waco,” Ellison said. “It’s a town that you’ve moved to or maybe grew up in and love and you get to grow and expand that [which] really helps the neighborhoods.”

Neumann said Habitat for Humanity has been a way for her to “build with a cause.” She said being able to watch a difference being made in front of her eyes is a rewarding experience. After a two year break due to the pandemic, Neumann said she is happy the Baylor chapter is back to continue the impact they have been a part of since 1987.

“Habitat for Humanity is the leading volunteer organization for anything like this so I was really excited when I realized it was being made available again after two years of basically not functioning because of COVID-19,” Neumann said. “With Habitat for Humanity, you’re the reason families have a roof over their head, you’re the reason the roof isn’t collapsing and it’s a pretty big thing.”