Raising the roof at Shack-A-Thon

Habitat for Humanity hosted the annual event to raise awareness for affordable housing in Syracuse and around the country.

The Syracuse University Quad teemed with activity Wednesday afternoon as Habitat for Humanity kicked off its annual Shack-A-Thon fundraising event. 

“It’s our biggest event of the year,” event co-coordinator and SU sophomore Maureen Finn said. “Everyone is really into it, and especially this year we didn’t start getting orgs until three weeks ago, so this is incredible that they will come out in that short of a time and be fully staffed for three days.”

Photo: Allie Hootnick
The Shack-A-Thon event aimed to raise awareness of homelessness on the Quad.

Twelve campus organizations turned out just as the sun broke through the clouds in the early afternoon to set up the prefabricated shacks, which will be the students’ temporary homes until Friday at 5 p.m. Each campus group, including the SU Student Association, members of Habitat for Humanity, Danceworks, ROTC Arnold Air Society, and SUNY-ESF, among others, sponsored one shack and will take turns living on the quad over a 72-hour period. 

For the three-day event, Habitat for Humanity organized activities such as a movie night Wednesday, team-building activities and games on Thursday, a benefit concert put on by on-campus a cappella groups. On Friday, there will be a press conference with two directors at Habitat for Humanity International, whose headquarters are based in Washington D.C. and Atlanta, GA. Jose Quinonez is the director of Advocacy Capacity Building for Habitat International in Atlanta, and Peter Rumsey is the director of National Service for Habitat International’s offices in Washington D.C.

“We’ve lived and breathed Shack-A-Thon for the past month,” Finn said.  “We started working on it at the end of last semester and over the summer as well.”

The six members of Unidad Latina Lambda Upsilon Lambda fraternity decided to participate in Shack-A-Thon, juggling the event with their coursework for three days.

“If you’re not in class you’re in the shack,” said Mark Medina, a communications and rhetorical studies junio and member of the Lambda Upsilon fraternity. 

“This is our first year doing Shack-A-Thon and we hope to develop a good partnership with Habitat for Humanity, maybe help build a couple of houses,” Medina said. “As a freshman, I would go around on the quad and see all the houses and wondered how I could get involved in that. Shack-A-Thon is a great event. 

"It’s been a lot of fun so far.”

As Habitat for Humanity’s biggest annual event on campus,, Finn and co-executive director Justin Cole, noted the recognition and support that Shack-A-Thon received this year from the student body.

“I would say that Shack-A-Thon’s mission is to raise awareness for affordable housing issues by presenting students with an unconventional event," Cole said. "Something that’s tangible, jarring, in your face, but still carries a sense of celebration, of togetherness, fun, and team building,” he said.

Founded in 1991, the SU and SUNY-ESF chapter of Habitat for Humanity has grown to 300 members and was recently recognized as one of the top three programs in the nation, out of 500 campus chapters. The organization also received the Build Louder Youth Advocacy Award in 2010. “We were all so excited and honored, and it really put Syracuse on the map and highlighted the Habitat program here. It’s basically a real testament to the advocacy efforts that we do,” Cole said.

On Saturday, SU will host an intercollegiate conference for 10 university Habitat chapters in upstate New York, the first intercollegiate conference to be held specifically for area Habitat chapters. Peter Rumsey, the director of National Service for Habitat International in Washington D.C., will speak at the conference.

“Campus chapters have unique issues that affiliate conferences don’t deal with," Cole said. "There has been a need and draw for this type of conference and so it really just put itself together."

With both Shack-A-Thon and Saturday’s conference, Cole said that he hopes students will not only gain awareness of affordable housing issues in Syracuse, but will come away from the week feeling engaged and “ready to go and do something.” 

“Be it affordable housing or animal rights, or whatever is the issue closest to their hearts.  We just want students to be engaged."

Students play soccer and cards at the Habitat for Humanity's Shack-A-Thon, a three-day fundraiser on the Quad. (Photo: Allie Hootnick)

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