An initiative that mobilizes more than 12,000 students each year will be celebrating 20 years of sending out youth volunteers to spend their time and energy making a difference in the lives of low-income families across the nation.
This week, two hundred students on spring break will gather in Miami to mark the 20th anniversary of Habitat for Humanity's Collegiate Challenge, which has reached out in more than 200 locations through its alternative break program for 16 to 25 year olds.
"Students who use their school breaks to build with Habitat for Humanity are making a powerful statement about the need for affordable housing and the ability of young people to create positive change," says Desiree Adaway, Habitat's senior director of Volunteer Mobilization.
"They are also making a real difference for families all over the United States, one house at a time," she adds.
Throughout the Collegiate Challenge's 20-year history, more than 166,000 volunteers have raised more than $15.5 million to build Habitat houses – homes for low-income families in need of a simple, decent place to live. In the Miami-Dade County alone, more than 8,000 Habitat volunteers participating in the Collegiate Challenge have helped eliminate poverty housing over the past 17 years, according to Anne Manning, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Miami's executive director.
"We deeply value the assistance that these volunteers provide our affiliate each year. Because of their efforts, more than 175 families now live in safe, decent and affordable houses," she says.
This year, Collegiate Challenge participants will contribute $1.8 million to help build Habitat homes, and students from 47 states and six Canadian provinces will volunteer in more than 200 Habitat locations during their school breaks.
A special ceremony celebrating Habitat's Collegiate Challenge history of engaging youth volunteers will take place this Thursday at a Habitat neighborhood in Miami-Dade County. The 20th anniversary event, sponsored by State Farm, the national corporate sponsor of Habitat's youth programs, will be attended by Jonathan Reckford, Habitat for Humanity International CEO; Barbara Carr, State Farm vice president of Agency; and Anne Manning, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Miami executive director.
The two-hour event is expected to begin at 1 p.m.
Since its founding in 1976, Habitat has built more than 300,000 houses worldwide, providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for more than 1.5 million people.
One of the organization's founders, Millard Fuller, died last month at the age of 74.