Spring break spent working on Habitat for Humanity home in Leechburg

| Saturday, March 15, 2014, 12:36 a.m.

For many college students, spring break means hitting the beach or kicking back for much-needed rest and relaxation.

But that's not the case for a group of 20 students from Providence College in Rhode Island who have joined with Habitat for Humanity for its Collegiate Challenge and traveled to Leechburg this week to help build a home for a single mother and her 7-year-old child.

Griffin Young and Caitlin Trainor, both 21, are the group's student team leaders and said the project along Locust Street has been fun despite the hard work.

“I've never done home improvement work before and never used a staple gun before coming here,” said Trainor, who is a senior majoring in psychology and minoring in public and community service.

“This has pushed me out of my comfort zone — I've found I'm really good at insulating.”

Trainor is from San Francisco, and like all the other members of the group, had never been to Western Pennsylvania before this trip.

“The scenery here is so beautiful,” she said. “And the communities here are so tightknit. People have been so welcoming and have helped us with everything we need. They have opened up their homes and community to us.”

Michael McElhaney, executive director of Armstrong Habitat for Humanity, said he is impressed by the students' attitude and willingness to learn and work.

“They keep thanking us for how nice we are to them, and they're providing work for us,” he said.

Students have been mainly working inside the house at 547 Locust St., insulating, nailing and putting up drywall. It was originally framed in during a one-day building blitz in November under the volunteer leadership of Anthony Guzzo from Guzzo Construction company.

The First Lutheran Church congregation in Leechburg has been hosting the group since its arrival in town on Sunday.

And a number of other area churches and organizations, such as Moose Lodge 102, Leechburg Rotary and Sprankles grocery store have contributed meals for the students this week.

Young, who is studying management and labor relations, and who is on the executive board for the Collegiate Challenge at Providence College, said students host fundraising events all year to raise money for travel expenses to make the 12-hour road trip possible.

He said they plan to head back on Saturday and have one day of rest before hitting the books again on Monday. In two weeks, students will host a Hoops for Habitat basketball fundraising event at their college to help bring in funds for next year's Collegiate Challenge.

Young has been involved with the Collegiate Challenge in past years and said Providence College this week sent 140 students to projects around the country.

“It's a real testament that there are so many students willing to give up their spring break to help,” he said.

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303.

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