Wanting to preserve access to affordable housing in South Bend, the University of Notre Dame in January partnered with Habitat for Humanity of St. Joseph County to build as many as seven new homes in the city over the next five years, beginning directly south of campus in the Northeast Neighborhood.
Underlying the partnership is a significant contribution from Notre Dame: four residential lots on Turnock Street, six blocks south of campus near Eddy Street Commons.
The University also donated $250,000 to Habitat to help offset construction costs for the new homes, representing a pass-through gift from an anonymous donor.
Now, Notre Dame alumni are getting into the act too.
On Monday (July 24), volunteers with the Alumni Association’s annual Family Volunteer Camp spent the day hoisting wall panels and swinging hammers on Turnock, where two homes, the first to break ground under the partnership, are currently under construction.
It’s part of a weeklong service project on Turnock involving Notre Dame alumni, friends and family, as well as the Office of Public Affairs, the Department of Development and the School of Architecture, which enlisted students to design the homes as part of a course led by Associate Professor of the Practice and local practicing architect John Mellor.
In addition, the Notre Dame student chapter of Habitat for Humanity is sponsoring one of the two homes. This entails a substantial financial contribution as well as volunteer student labor.
“It’s been going really well,” Dan Allen, associate director of spirituality and service for the Alumni Association, said Monday. “Habitat worked very hard to get the sites ready, and true to Notre Dame form, our families have done more than expected in a shorter amount of time than expected.”
Jim Williams is president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of St. Joseph County.
“Notre Dame is about faith and service and so is Habitat,” Williams said. “We’re a Christian organization and we look at what we do as putting our faith in action. So there’s just a natural synergy there, and it’s just fun. We don’t get this kind of synergy on every build. It’s fun.”
Each of the two homes features three bedrooms and one-and-a-half to two bathrooms, along with a full basement and detached, one-car garage. One house is two stories. The other is one-and-a-half stories, with a second story built into the attic. Both have porches.
The homeowners are both single fathers from the South Bend area. One is a Notre Dame employee.
“Our families are buying these homes; we’re just helping to provide an affordable mortgage,” Williams said.
Family Volunteer Camp is an annual summer camp that invites Notre Dame alumni, friends and family to campus for community service and family fun over three weeks in July.
Participants volunteer with organizations such as the South Bend Center for the Homeless, Habitat for Humanity and St. Margaret’s House during the day and enjoy meals and activities around campus and in the surrounding community in the evenings.
The Coopers — dad Christopher, mom Kristen and daughter Avery — traveled from North Carolina to volunteer. Christopher is a 1996 Notre Dame graduate. They also have a son who is too young to volunteer but came anyway to check out campus and the surrounding community.
The family attended camp last year as well.
“We’re very grateful to be able to help these families build these homes and give a little bit back to a community that was so good to my husband when he was attending Notre Dame,” Kristen said.
Avery, 16, enjoyed learning about home construction.
“It means the world to me. I stress to my daughters a lot about actually owning things instead of always renting and stuff like that.”
“And it’s especially fun because after we’re done volunteering we get to hang out around campus and around South Bend, so that’s nice,” she said.
Joining the Notre Dame volunteers was Gregory Deberry, one of the two homeowners. A native of South Bend, Deberry has two daughters, ages 15 and 17. He is a shift lead for a global power management company in South Bend.
“It means the world to me,” Deberry said of the opportunity to invest in a home, build wealth and attain financial security. “I stress to my daughters a lot about actually owning things instead of always renting and stuff like that.”
Of the Notre Dame volunteers, he said, “I can’t be more thankful.”