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ISSUE 117 VOL 5 PUBLISHED 10/17/2003

Doin' It: Maureen McDonald, Habitat for Humanity

By Daniel Grupe
Staff Writer

Friday, October 17, 2003

Of the manifold volunteer organizations at St. Olaf, few are as high profile as Habitat for Humanity. Since 1976, Habitat has built over 150,000 houses for low-income families worldwide. Former President Jimmy Carter has helped make Habitat for Humanity one of the most well known volunteer organizations through his commitment to the program. St. Olaf’s chapter of Habitat, however, has failed to produce such a high-profile leader – that is, until now.

Habitat secretary Maureen McDonald ’05, a junior counselor in Mohn Hall from Madison, Wisc. is in her third year of involvement with Habitat for Humanity, though this is her first as an executive. The entire executive team, McDonald explained, works together to coordinate fundraising opportunities. As the secretary, Maureen also runs the Habitat alias, which contains a staggering 300 people.

Of those 300, about 60 are active members in the organization. These 60 meet monthly and take part in fundraising activities throughout the year, including leaf raking at professors’ houses, Caf–fasts, raffles and ushering for Christmas Fest. All of the money raised during the year goes towards funding spring break trips.

Every spring break, St. Olaf takes part in the “Collegiate Challenge,” which last year sent 12,202 college and high school students to sites, not only in the United States, but all over the the world to build houses for the needy.

This year, St. Olaf will send students on three trips in the continental United States – one to Texas or New Mexico, one to Louisiana or Florida, and one to South Carolina or Virginia. The process of choosing trips, according to McDonald, is “kind of like an auction.” To claim their top choices, the executives will be “frantically calling” a hotline on the morning of Oct.20 until somebody gets their preferred locations. The trip’s destination is not as important to Habitat for Humanity members as the work that goes on when they arrive.

When students reach their sites, “ there are actual volunteer construction workers” to lead the operation, McDonald said. Student volunteers, however, take part in all aspects of building the house. They perform such tasks as: framing, roofing, electrical work, yard work, painting and more. Maureen has experience in many of these tasks. How many college students have roofed six houses in the past two years? She also has experience doing framing, yard work, and painting.

This expert handywoman keeps her hands full even when she’s not working with Habitat for Humanity. A Spanish and Chemistry double major, McDonald hopes to go into medicine after leaving the Hill. Maureen’s dedication to volunteer work extends bey-ond Habitat. She volunteers with Project Friendship, Northfield Hospital and Children’s Hospital in the Twin Cities. Maureen, an avid traveler, most enjoyed her visit to Grenada, a region of Spain. She has also spent an interim in Costa Rica and spent time in Ecuador.

In response to one of the most prevalent student questions about Habitat for Humanity, Maureen said that no, the organization is not planning on traveling North to help build igloos for the Inuit people. A more logical location might be some type of secluded pond, as McDonald likes to compare Habitat to a beaver. “Beavers build houses and we build houses,” the secretary explained. But this St. Olaf organization has a leg up on those paddle-tailed rodents. While a beaver working alone can only build a weak and temporary dam, St. Olaf students, working together with others, are building houses for thousands of needy families that will certainly stand the test of time.

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