News and Events
Inaugural Alumni Project Serve Group Builds a Home with Habitat for Humanity
Before: the home at the start of the
Alumni Project Serve mission
When Hurricane Katrina bore down on the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, in 2005 it destroyed livelihoods, properties, and, sadly, many homes. It was fitting, then, that New Orleans became "home" to the first Alumni Project Serve group as they built a new family home with Habitat for Humanity in an area of the city still recovering from the devastation.
Mirroring the annual student Spring Break tradition, Project Serve, a group of 20 Pepperdine alumni, faculty, and staff spent three days on the construction project, performing all kinds of manual labor from roofing the house with shingles, to attaching weather resistant siding around the entire house. "You could say that our group gave the new home its 'armor' for the inevitable storms that lie ahead," says Matthew Ebeling, a Seaver College 1999 graduate and now the executive director of Alumni Affairs at Pepperdine.
Watch a video of the Alumni Project Serve team in action here.
After everything the people of New Orleans have been through, the significance of creating a safe, dependable home was not lost on Ebeling and his team. "After about a full day of hard work, it suddenly began to sink in with our volunteers that they were producing a home that a family would depend on for their security and togetherness," he notes. "It was humbling, knowing that we were all guilty at one time or another of taking for granted the very roof over our heads."
After: the home as it looked after three
The team got a small insight into how hard it must have been for the citizens of New Orleans as victims of the elements when the first day was spent miserably exposed to harsh winds and cold temperatures. Jack McManus, a professor of education at the Graduate School of Education and Psychology, recalls that he felt as cold as he had ever been, but that "no one complained, no one."
"We were there to do a job, not comment on the weather," he continues. Besides, the group had plenty of reminders of the challenges overcome by the people of New Orleans and by those, like them, determined to help.
"We met Ms. Wheelchair USA, who helped on the site also," McManus explains, adding that a team of students from Brenau University also worked with the Pepperdine team. "She was hauling away trash to the dumpster when we were leaving—in her wheelchair. And, by the way, her hands were covered in paint because she was painting a home all day."
Brian Hall and Matt Gilling ('83)
work on the roof. Gilling is the
volunteer coordinator for
Habitat in Ventura County.
McManus' main duties involved anything covered by the label "rookie carpenter." Led by the site's master carpenter, Aaron, he hammered nails, measured long boards, cleaned up the worksite in the afternoon, and got everything ready again in the morning. It was a far cry from his usual routine at Pepperdine. "When we said our goodbyes, we got into the van, and sighed, and smiled," he says. "Yes, we were tired, but 'tired' is a passing feeling. Satisfaction that you have helped someone lasts a lot longer."
Ebeling and his fellow alumnus Giuseppe Nespoli (BA '04), now the director of alumni programs, decided to pioneer the project to give alumni the opportunity to continue to serve others as they had as students. "These service experiences with fellow classmates during my student days were a major part of the value I took away from my Seaver College experience, and I knew that many other alumni felt the same," says Ebeling.
Ebeling and Nespoli's instincts were right, as they discovered while arranging this first trip as an experiment to gauge interest. Within just five hours of sending the first email to alumni about the opportunity, and with just two weeks notice of the trip, all 20 spaces had been filled and they had to turn away 20 more.
"This instant outpour of selfless reaction from the Waves was an exhilarating indicator of what will be possible when we give our alumni plenty of advanced notice!" says Ebeling.
For more information, visit the Seaver College Alumni Web site.