The Roanoke College community has an annual tradition of collaborating with Habitat for Humanity in the Roanoke Valley to build a house for a family in need. New students join in this act as a part of their orientation to the campus.
R-House gives new students the opportunity and the experience to help create a tangible change in their new community and introduces them to the culture of service that is a core component of the Roanoke College experience. This year marks the first time R-House is being built as part of the summer orientation rather than in August as part of fall orientation.
On Tuesday, June 21, new Roanoke College students started initial construction on what will be the 17th R-House built by students for a local family. The house is being built in the Hawthorne Street parking lot where students, in 90-minute shifts, will help with various tasks that include framing, raising walls and hammering together roof sheathing. On-campus construction will continue from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on June 24, June 28 and July 1. All together, nearly 500 new students will be involved in constructing the house.
The house initially is constructed on a raised platform so the home can be moved to its permanent location after orientation. From there, Roanoke College student volunteers will continue putting finishing touches on the house until the dedication ceremony, usually held in December.
“R House is way outside of their comfort zone. I hope these students gain confidence through the experience to try new things and maintain their tenacity when their studies are tough, or life in general gets challenging. ”
Brian Clark ‘01, construction director for Habitat for Humanity in the Roanoke Valley
A tradition since 2005, R-House is more than just a construction project, said Jesse Griffin, the College’s director of The Center for Civic Engagement who has coordinated the work each year since the project’s inception.
“R-House is a chance for students, faculty and Habitat staff to come together for a shared goal, one that is often life-changing for families who receive the homes,” Griffin said.
The recipient of this year's R-House is Sirena Perry, an assistant teacher in the Roanoke City Public Schools system and the single mother of a 10-year-old daughter. The house — a two-story, 1,450-square-foot-structure — will be moved to a permanent location in Southeast Roanoke. This year, the target area of Habitat for Humanity in the Roanoke Valley’s work is the Belmont-Fallon area of Southeast Roanoke.
“Habitat does make change in direct and indirect ways,” Griffin said. “Involving students in that change is an incredible teaching tool and also a way to create a community connection.”
Because of the foundation of community service that R-House provides, many Roanoke College alumni have pursued careers with Habitat for Humanity, Griffin said. Brian Clark ‘01 has worked for Habitat for Humanity in the Roanoke Valley since 2006 and is the current construction director for R-House and other Habitat projects. Clark said R-House offers a unique opportunity for students to bond with peers from day one while also contributing to the community.
“R House is way outside of their comfort zone,” Clark said. “I hope these students gain confidence through the experience to try new things and maintain their tenacity when their studies are tough, or life in general gets challenging.”
Most importantly, R-House positively changes the future for families in need, and it is their hope that students remember the family they help, both Griffin and Clark said.
“In a general sense, I hope that students recognize that giving and participating in service to others can be fun and exciting,” said Clark. “For all, I hope they recognize that many of us may need help from others in our lives, of varying degrees. Paying it forward, while we are able, has positive impacts on individuals and the whole community.”