On Thursday, April 18, 2024, the RiverBend Growth Association Young Adults Committee visited with the Habitat for Humanity team to uplift a local family. Habitat for Humanity (H4H) is a non-governmental Christian organization that strives to build affordable housing for those in need. Millard and Linda Fuller founded H4H in 1976 in Americus, GA, around “partnership housing,” where “new homeowners’ house payments would be combined with no-interest loans provided by supporters and money earned by fundraising…”. Surprisingly, not many families apply because of the selection criteria: families must make enough money to own a home, but not so much money that help is unnecessary. Habitat does not build houses for the unemployed but for the working poor. It is required that the new homeowners pay for the house until ownership and can choose to sell once they get back on their feet. H4H makes a massive impact, building over 1 million homes and serving over 5 million people worldwide. Habitat for Humanity simply offers “a hand up, not a hand out” and aims to create “a world where everyone has a decent place to live.”

Several non-profits presented to the YAC in September 2023. Habitat included the “Top 10 Reasons You Should Volunteer with H4H” in their presentation and what the group might be doing to help Habitat for Humanity if they were selected. Collectively, the group selected H4H as one of the five non-profits they would work with throughout the school year. Then, each school got the opportunity to lead the rest of the group on a volunteer experience. Alton High easily chose Habitat because of its obvious connection to the community and ambition to make a difference in people’s lives.

The Young Adults Committee comprises two juniors and two seniors from each school. The four Alton High School representatives are seniors Khas Spitz and Emily Schrumpf and juniors Adie Bemis and Seana Grey. Khas is in every orchestra ensemble at Alton High, including Symphonic Orchestra, Pit Orchestra, and Chamber Orchestra. Additionally, she is a member of Physics Club and participates in other academic extracurriculars. Graduating soon, she will be headed to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville to study Ecology. Emily is involved in multiple musical ensembles at Alton High, including Marching 100, Wind Ensemble, and Pit/Symphonic Orchestra. Additionally, she is the Mu Alpha Theta President and is involved in the National Honor Society. Emily will be headed to Bradley University next fall to major in nursing, hoping to become a Nurse Practitioner. Adie, Alton High School junior, is involved in many music programs such as Wind Ensemble, Pit Orchestra, Symphonic Orchestra, and is a Drum Major in the Marching 100. When Adie is not working on music, she volunteers at the Metro East Humane Society. Adie dreams of becoming a Veterinarian with a focus on Marine Mammal Rehabilitation and Rescue. Seana is also a junior, and she is involved in the student council, math team, marching band, and HOSA. She aspires to attend the University of Michigan to get her medical degree and become a pediatrician.

The YAC was not alone in the adventure of helping a local family. The Alton Chapter Volunteer Coordinator, Val Harris, and Board Chair, Pastor Bill Pyatt, guided them along the way. Both are long-time believers in the Habitat for Humanity mission and plan to stick with the organization for many more years.

Bill, a retired pastor, explained his personal mission for the area: “I would like to get all the local churches involved in bettering the community whether it be through Habitat or not.” Val and Bill were instrumental in ensuring the H4H team was prepared for the teenagers to lend a helping hand and that the group understood the day’s goal. Without their organization and communication, this enriching opportunity would not have been possible for the young adults. Additionally, their passion for serving others was truly inspiring. The specific home the YAC got to work on was for a family of six: a single mom and her five children. The family is extremely excited to move into their new home in a few short months. The kids anticipate playing in their new yard and have already started thinking about how they each want to decorate their rooms.

During the two-hour timeframe, the committee saved the Habitat for Humanity team several days of painting. They painted well over 15 doors and several baseboards with fellow representatives. A central theme at every non-profit the group has visited this year has been that many hands make light work. In just a short time, they have made a difference in numerous lives, including the family receiving this new home.

Roxana senior Josh Gilbert stated, “My experience with Habitat for Humanity is something I will take with me for the rest of my life. After spending quality time painting in the house with a group of like-minded, hard-working individuals, I understand that getting out and helping the community will benefit not only those receiving the service but those involved in the working process.” Many other students agreed with Josh. They will cherish the time spent with the H4H team.

Alton senior Emily Schrumpf said in regards to her experience that “it was truly something [she] will appreciate for the rest of [her] life and will never forget the memories [she] made! The committee also enjoyed writing little messages to the family on the wooden beams throughout the house. It was an influential part of the morning.

Alton junior Adie Bemis explained, We really got to leave our mark on the home.”

Volunteer Coordinator Val Harris added, It was so special seeing young people bringing all that joy and energy to this really important mission. I loved being a part of it and couldn’t have been more grateful.”

Lastly, Habitat for Humanity is always looking for volunteers to assist with their projects and help at their resale stores. There are several homes across the five local chapters to get involved in. The RiverBend Growth Association Young Adults Committee can attest that this is a non-profit with which everyone needs to volunteer.