ELHS boasts only high school Habitat for Humanity chapter in NC
East Lincoln High School has established the first high school Habitat for Humanity chapter in North Carolina.
Kelly McLain, an Americorps volunteer coordinator serving Habitat for Humanity of Lincoln County, was in search of new volunteers when the idea dawned on her.
McLain, a graduate of East Lincoln High School where she served as president of the science club, reconnected with her former science teacher, Robert Chapp. Chapp, coincidentally, had been brainstorming ideas of a new club himself that would not only look good on a college resume, but also teach students valuable skills for later on in life.
“I reconnected with Mr. Chapp back in August when I started this position because I was trying to get some more volunteers and I wanted to see some students get involved,” McLain said. “He had actually thought about doing a Habitat for Humanity club before I had even approached him. Most of the campus chapters are on college campuses, you don’t really see a lot at high schools. We’re definitely starting something new in this area and we are hoping to branch out in the future as well.”
The two went through an arduous application and interview process with Habitat International to become an official chapter of the organization. The chapter was ultimately approved and now, not even two months later, the club boasts 160 members who have been diligently serving Lincoln County since late August.
“I was so surprised and humbled that so many students wanted to be a part of this,” McLain said. “I was very shocked. I was expecting 20 or 30 kids to sign up and I couldn’t believe it when we got 160 members. We did a presentation at the beginning of the school year and packed the entire East Lincoln gym. They all just really care about our community and are going above and beyond the call of duty. They’re really excited to volunteer, learn new skills and help make our community a better place.” Habitat for Humanity requires that anyone volunteering on one of their construction sites must be over the age of 16. Therefore, the club at East Lincoln has had to split up the responsibilities so that everyone can contribute in some shape or form.
The upperclassmen who meet the age requirement have been coming out each Saturday to work at the numerous construction sites around Lincoln County. The younger students have been providing other services to the community such as reading to children at local elementary schools, working on educational materials about substandard housing and how the community can get involved or creating a Youtube video to promote Habitat for Humanity.
“The main function of a campus chapter requires you to focus on four things which are building, fundraising, advocating and educating,” McLain said. “They’re already on top of things. We’ve had students coming out every weekend to volunteer and they’ve started a multi-year fundraiser.” The first annual fundraiser will be held on Oct. 14 at the tailgate before the East Lincoln homecoming football game. The students are building their own carnival-style festival games from scratch and all proceeds raised will go directly to Habitat for Humanity.
“We’re going to start serving a lot more families in Lincoln County,” McLain said. “We’ve currently got 10 families on the list and we’re going to start building two houses at once so a portion of the fundraising is going to be put toward that. Habitat has plans to revitalize neighborhoods in Lincoln County and our campus chapter will certainly be involved in this project.”
“I think this opportunity gives students a new appreciation for their own lives,” McLain said. “You see them leave the construction site and they’re all so much more thankful for what they have. I hope that they take from this experience a new attitude that everyone can help, anyone can make a difference and I hope that they learn the value of paying it forward.”
Image of The East Lincoln High School Habitat for Humanity chapter courtesy of Contributed