Huntington High School’s Habitat for Humanity chapter members went to New Orleans during last week’s mid-winter vacation to work on housing projects there for folks who lost just about everything nearly 14 years when Hurricane Katrina almost wiped out the entire city.
Habitat for Humanity club advisor Robert Gilmor III
Chapter founder Robert Gilmor III led the group, which included business teacher Suzi Biagi, security guard Youlanda Carey and club members Marissa Cribar, Bianca Lella, Cassia Machado, Colette Wagner, Eliza Engelsher, Emma Grassi, Alice Bradford, Riva Bergman, Beanna Cumella, Isabella Toscano, Karley Mathews, Paige Mangan, Brooke Biernacki, Sadie Walters, Sophie Dellecave, Emma Farrell, Bella Thompson, Phoebe Walther, Matt Basil, Dan Danziger, Ethan Mulroy, Charlie O’Rourke, RJ Moreno, Raul Orozio and Tyler Rund, who participated in a segment of the trip.
“It was a remarkable time for each and every one of us,” Mr. Gilmor said. “This experience helped us all grow as people. The work that was accomplished will allow New Orleans families of the future to live in a healthy and promising home surrounded by neighbors that care for the growth of their community. Each student worked as hard as they could to accomplish as much as they could in the very short time they were there. The site supervisor told me personally that the amount and quality of work that was done in the short time we were there made a significant difference in the eventual completion of the home.”
The Habitat volunteers did some after-school fundraising, but basically paid for the trip themselves and also gave up a week-long vacation to help provide housing for a family in desperate need.
“The trip was so much fun,” Ms. Walther said. “It’s so fulfilling knowing that the house you are building is going to be used by someone in need and what you are doing is going to make a difference in people’s lives. These memories and friendships are some that I am going to keep forever.”
Huntington’s Habitat for Humanity chapter continues to thrive. Created by Mr. Gilmor when he was hired as a high school dean 17 years ago, the club is more popular than ever. Each year the chapter participates in countless builds on Long Island and travels to communities in other states struggling to recover from natural disasters.
“It was a really rewarding experience,” said Ms. Grassi, who serves as the Huntington Habitat chapter president. “Everyone put in a lot of hard work. It’s important that we don’t forget about the low income families that are still battling the effects of Katrina.”
Mr. Gilmor welcomes participation by students on every grade level, although certain activities have age restrictions. Annual club membership typically runs into the many dozens of energetic students, who display an unmatched work ethic and commitment to improving not only their own community, but those of complete strangers.
The Habitat club members returned to Huntington tired, but exhilarated. “This trip has been the most rewarding trip of them all for me,” Ms. Bergman said. “I have learned so much, not only about building, but about how lucky I am to live in New York. While on the trip, I formed new relationships with new people and created memories that I will never forget. I can’t wait until the house we started to build is complete. New Orleans, Louisiana 2019 will never be forgotten!”
Before boasting its own chapter, Huntington High School assisted in Habitat for Humanity’s many good deeds through the student government organization. Once Mr. Gilmor arrived on the scene, he quickly applied for chapter status and saw students respond in large numbers to the initial membership drive.
The Habitat club members have been telling all of their friends about their experiences in New Orleans. “It was a fun and great experience, building a home for those less fortunate in an area devastated by Katrina,” Mr. Moreno said. “I would definitely recommend to others participating in a trip like this one.”