Penn College Students Build Playhouse to Benefit 'Habitat'

Published 12.14.2007

Construction Management
Student News

Manuevering the miniature house into place at the Lycoming Mall, are counterclockwise from upper left, Construction Management Association members Thomasz Jezowski (dark blue sweatshirt), Justin J. Kovaleski, James P. Craft, Nicholas L. Fragello and Ryan P. Becker (grey sweatshirt).A get-acquainted look at Habitat for Humanity's work in the Greater Williamsport community has spawned a truly constructive effort by a student organization at Pennsylvania College of Technology.

Members of the Construction Management Association advised by Wayne R. Sheppard, assistant professor of construction management in the college's School of Construction and Design Technologies, built a miniature house that is being raffled by the Greater Lycoming Habitat for Humanity .

The 54-square-foot structure, complete with vinyl siding and interior paneling, is on display in space donated by the Lycoming Mall (in the Macy's wing, near Dick's Sporting Goods and Borders).

"As a group, CMA became involved with Habitat and what they have been doing in Lycoming County," said Ryan P. Becker, the organization's president. "Mr. Sheppard developed a contact, and we used that contact to show us through a couple brand-new houses in the area. We learned a lot about how they choose families to live in the houses that are built by their volunteers. We also learned a lot about how they build their homes."

Greater Lycoming Habitat for Humanity works to reduce poverty in the county by constructing decent, affordable homes for working, low-income families using donated resources and the required "sweat equity" of the homeowners themselves. Nearly 40 Habitat homes have been dedicated in Lycoming County since 1989, with plans for a five-house build in Williamsport beginning in spring.

"They don't just build a home with cheap appliances and cheap heating and cooling units. They build their houses so that the individual families will be able to afford to live," Becker said. "They build with top-of-the-line energy-efficient materials and appliances."

The tours got CMA excited about what Habitat is doing, and students started asking about ways to help and raise money before the semester came to a close, he said. The playhouse idea grew out of those discussions.

Posing with the Construction Management Association's 'Habitat house' are, from left, students Ryan P. Becker, Nicholas L. Fragello, Samuel H. Foltz and Nicholas J. Colaric."The club members wanted to help, but building the playhouse in a week and then getting it to the mall and into position was a big task," Sheppard said. "They really demonstrated dedication and focus, along with some solid skills during this project. From creating the plan, estimating materials, to construction and then transporting the playhouse to the mall, there was a lot of opportunity for learning and a great chance to give back to the community."

Materials arrived on the Monday after Thanksgiving, and the group finished building the project that Friday evening.

"There were several of us that spent entire days in the carpentry labs constructing this playhouse," Becker said. "I had an excellent group of hard workers that devoted all of their free time just to make sure we were done on time."

Moving the playhouse also posed a great challenge, he said.

"We designed the house so that we could take the roof off and help eliminate as much weight as possible when moving," Becker explained. Still, it took equipment and staff donated by Your Building Center to haul the playhouse to the mall, where a dozen or so club representatives maneuvered it down a hallway on a large cart.

"CMA wants to thank YBC for donating the boom truck for the move," Sheppard said. "The driver was extremely helpful, and the boom sure came in handy this thing isn't light!"

Habitat has been a frequent recipient of Penn College's community spirit: Numerous lab hours in construction classes have been dedicated over the past 15 years to Habitat, groups of employees and students in all majors have volunteered on building projects, and School of Hospitality students annually craft chocolate houses and other goodies that are auctioned to the charity's benefit.

That involvement will continue during the Spring 2008 semester, Becker said, when CMA plans to get involved with building a house.

"It has been great working with the CMA students and Professor Wayne Sheppard on this project, as well," said Todd J. Fox, executive director of the Habitat chapter. "I am an alumnus of the college, so, whenever I have a chance to speak about GLHFH and (Penn College) especially in the same project it is encouraging to do."

Fox also applauded the mall for providing display space during such a busy season and hopes the peak visibility will broaden the nonprofit's community exposure.

"As an added bonus, shoppers can buy raffle tickets for a chance to win the house after the holiday season," he said. "Someone gets a terrific prize and we are able to generate income to help others in the community." Tickets are available at the mall on select weekends or by calling the Habitat office at (570) 322-2515.

"Lycoming Mall strives to be a good neighbor and this is one of many community projects we are involved with," said Kate Pacacha, the mall's marketing director. "Habitat for Humanity provides an incredible service to Lycoming County, and we are happy to support them. Many of us take for granted the roof over our head, but the folks that Habitat "¦ partners with certainly don't."

For more about construction management and other majors in the School of Construction and Design Technologies, visit online or call (570) 327-4513. For more information about Penn College, visit on the Web , e-mail or call toll-free (800) 367-9222.