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Pieces of Eight

Students apply purple and gold paint to decorate wooden birdhouses for the ECU chapter of Habitat for Humanity. Profits from sale of the birdhouses will support the chapter’s goal of building a Habitat home in Greenville. (Photo by Joy Holster)

'Houses to Homes' Benefits ECU Habitat for Humanity

By Joy Holster

An ECU Pirate catchphrase urges sports fans to “Paint it Purple!”

Volunteers on campus appropriated that sentiment last month when, paintbrushes in hand, they applied purple and gold to plain wooden birdhouses, transforming the structures into avian homes emblazoned with Pirate Spirit.

More than 100 ECU students turned out Sept. 15 to hammer, nail and paint birdhouses for ECU’s Habitat for Humanity chapter. They created more than 100 brightly-colored birdhouses in the first of three scheduled “Houses to Homes” events held on campus. Another successful event was held Sept. 29, and another is set for Oct. 20 at Mendenhall Student Center Brickyard, from 3 to 5 p.m.

Students from classes led by ECU faculty members Alice Arnold (Art) and Ronald Sessoms (Construction Management) serve as art and construction leaders for the project, supported by campus leaders and members of both the ECU and the Pitt County Chapters of Habitat for Humanity.

Lowe’s Home Improvement Hardware donated the wood to build the houses, and ECU’s Dowdy Student Stores donated acrylic paint to support the decorating theme of “Pirate spirit.”

Volunteer Fridays are focused “primarily on providing a comprehensive service experience for our first year students,” said Jason Denius, director of ECU’s Volunteer and Service-Learning Center.

“The fact that this project is held on campus and on Friday afternoons, and that it incorporates the leadership skills of our upperclassmen, are all in an effort to accommodate first year students,” he said.

Al Smith, assistant vice chancellor for Student Development, said the project was designed as part of the ECU Office of Student Development’s Weeks of Welcome. Through the WOW program, the office seeks to engage freshman in meaningful activities during their first six weeks of college as a way to ensure a significant first year experience and increase retention.

“We know that the first six weeks of college can be critical in creating institutional attachment for new students,” Smith said. In addition, the office hopes that a positive volunteer experience will lead to repeated volunteer efforts throughout the students’ college careers.

Smith said the WOW program focuses on creating co-curricular experiences. “With a great committee of professionals from various parts of the university, this project has mushroomed into a truly meaningful experience for our students,” he said.

ECU freshmen were invited to participate through an extensive publicity campaign conducted by the Volunteer Fridays committee.

Volunteer Fridays are aimed at increasing volunteering awareness while raising funds for the ECU Habitat for Humanity chapter. The chapter’s ultimate goal is to build a Habitat home in Greenville sponsored entirely through the chapter’s funds and volunteer efforts.

The Volunteer Fridays lead up to ECU’s Oct. 28 celebration of National Make a Difference Day, a national day of helping others through large-scale, one-day service projects across the country. Created by USA Weekend Magazine, Make A Difference Day engaged more than three million people in volunteer activities last year.

ECU has several volunteer opportunities on tap for this year’s Make a Difference Day including food drives, building, painting, cleaning and landscaping.

Volunteer Fridays are sponsored by the ECU Volunteer and Service-Learning Center, the ECU Division of Student Life, the Weeks of Welcome Committee, Habitat for Humanity of Pitt County, and Lowe’s.

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This page originally appeared in the Oct. 6, 2006 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at