SAU puts heart into Habitat for Humanity

St. Ambrose University students Emma Darmody, left, of Seattle, Wash., and Cassidy Foltz of Prophetstown, Ill., measure and cut insulation for a Habitat for Humanity build in Davenport Feb. 21.

By Anne Marie Amacher

DAVENPORT – Stepping up on a ladder, placing a mask over her nose and mouth, Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, got right to work Feb. 21 installing insulation during a Habitat for Humanity “house build” in Davenport.

This was the St. Ambrose University president’s first house build in the Quad-City area, but not her first for Habitat.

“Today I’m here as a volunteer,” Sr. Lescinski said. “I’ve been to many builds prior to this assignment while on the East Coast and in the Midwest. I am pleased to be here in my first build in the Quad-Cities.”

Sr. Lescinski’s job was to put up insulation. Joining her were students from St. Ambrose’s Habitat for Humanity chapter, along with other volunteers and Habitat staff. The St. Ambrose chapter is partially sponsoring construction of the 1,050-square-foot, three-bedroom house.


Kathy Anderson, advisor to the St. Ambrose Habitat group, said this is the fourth year the university has had a Habitat group. “This is our first year as an official college chapter of Habitat International,” she said proudly.

Katie Payne, fundraising coordinator for St. Ambrose Habitat, said there have been a number of fundraisers for the effort. Some include “Shanty Town,” in which students raise money by sleeping outdoors to simulate the homeless experience; wrapping Christmas gifts at the mall; hosting a pancake breakfast; a clothing drive and, this spring, collecting recyclable cans and bottles to earn the 5-cent deposits.

A donation from the Jaycees was most welcome, noted Payne, a senior from Bloomington, Ill.

Laura Siddall, a sophomore from Newton and member of the board for St. Ambrose’s Habitat, said she joined the group because she believes in helping the community. “The family we are building for is inspiring.”

Sophomore Dani Classen of Orion, Ill., secretary-treasurer for the Ambrose Habitat, said she wanted to be involved in the build and not just serve on the board.

Several of the St. Ambrose students have been on the build site more than once. Some have spent most of their Saturdays at the site since work started last fall.

Beth Fier, a December graduate in the Master’s of Business Administration program, said her last class on non-profit leadership was taught by the late John Kiley, who was the director of social action for the Diocese of Davenport.

“He talked about Habitat and his work at United Way. He inspired me to get involved. That is why I am here today on my first build. I wanted to know what it’s like to ‘swing a hammer.’”

The sounds of hammers and saws inside the home will benefit Holly and Aaron Mammen and their two children, said Terry Timmerman, volunteer coordinator for Habitat for Humanity Quad-Cities.

House number 38 is behind schedule because of the weather, but he hopes for a May 1 dedication date — in time for the St. Ambrose students to be there.

“We didn’t get the roof on before the weather turned bad (last fall),” he said. But the volunteers are making progress. “We had one contractor come in on New Year’s Day to put shingles on the home. That’s dedication.”

Habitat homes are a win-win situation not only for the homeowners, but the cities where the homes are built, Timmerman said.

House 38, as well as most Quad City Habitat homes, will cost about $70,000 to build. Families receive a no-interest loan for their homes. The cost of the home, plus property taxes and homeowner’s insurance comes to about $400 per month, he noted.

The building lot for House 38 had been vacant for about 25 years, Timmerman said. “There were no taxes being collected on it and the city had to mow the lot. Now they will collect taxes.”

He appreciates the St. Ambrose students’ energy on the project. “They bring so much life here.”

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