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Seton Hill Students Assist Hurricane Victims on Habitat For Humanity Trip

In early October 2016, Hurricane Matthew made landfall in South Carolina. Marion County, one of the hardest-hit areas in the state, received approximately 15 inches of rain during the storm. With a median household income of only $30,500 (compared to the national average of $55,300), Marion County remains one of the poorest counties in South Carolina. 25% of its residents live in poverty, and over a year later, the county is still recovering from the extensive damage brought on by the hurricane’s floodwaters.

“By opening up to the experience, you will see the beauty within the work that everyone is doing, and the love that is spread.”

On January 7th, 2018, a group of students from the Griffins@Work Club headed to Marion County on a week-long service trip in which they partnered with Habitat for Humanity to dismantle a damaged home. Their job was to salvage wood from the house in a way that the material could be reused. The team worked on removing cabinets, light fixtures, baseboard and trim, and collecting nails. The salvaged material was then taken to a resale store where it was repaired and readied to be resold. Once the house is completely demolished, a new home will be built in its place.  

A typical day on the job began at 7 AM with breakfast provided by the First United Methodist Church in Marion, which is where the group stayed for the week. Around 8 AM, work on-site began. For lunch, a variety of churches, community groups, and businesses provided food. After going back to work until about 4 PM, the group would then eat dinner provided by church parishioners who invited them into their homes. The day ended with time set aside for reflection.

Nicole Berardinelli, a graduate student in the Physician Assistant Program, described the trip as a powerful experience. “It only takes a week of your time but it makes such a big impact,” she said. Nicole did several different types of work, including removing wood from the damaged house as well as repairs and other handiwork at the resale store. One of her favorite parts of the trip was the reflection at the end of the day, which she said gave the group “the opportunity to open up and connect on a deeper level with each other.”        

The greatest challenge, according to Steele Eckenrode, a junior studying Business Entrepreneurship, was seeing pictures of Hurricane Matthew’s aftermath. “There was black mold forming in all of these houses, and almost all of the homes needed helped,” he said, “but since they never received the millions of dollars that was promised to them … they had to survive on the volunteers and the compassion of others to help rebuild the community.” Steele noted how important it was that this trip allowed him to physically make a difference in the world. 

There is no doubt that by partaking in this selfless act of service, Seton Hill students truly are transforming the world. As Steele said: “By opening up to the experience, you will see the beauty within the work that everyone is doing, and the love that is spread.”