SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Twenty Wofford College students used their hands during Interim 2020 to help build two Habitat for Humanity houses in the Drayton Mills community. Now, they’re using their hearts to provide move-in funds and purchase lawnmowers for the families who will live in those homes.

Dr. Bill DeMars, professor of government and international affairs, built $100 per student into his course fee that would be used as the students saw fit after completing the course, “Build an Affordable House, Save the Environment, Transform a Community.” The students have decided to provide $500 to each of the two families as move-in gifts along with a little more than $1,000 to Habitat for Humanity to be used for lawnmowers for these families and others.

“These gifts are really from the students and their families,” says DeMars. “Lee Close, executive director of Habitat for Humanity, met with the class three times to talk about affordable housing and homelessness. … Students were taken with the idea of providing some extras for the participating families.”

Hannah Cambre, a junior humanities major from Lexington, S.C., says the Interim gave her a chance to engage with people living in Spartanburg, “particularly those who want to improve their standard of living, but may not necessarily have the means to do so. It was especially meaningful to get to meet and work alongside the women who will own these homes.”

Close says he was elated when DeMars approached him about Habitat being the “experience” component of an Interim on affordable housing. “Habitat for Humanity of Spartanburg is a multi-faceted affordable housing provider, but the bottom line for all our work is the availability of volunteers. It can be a challenge to fill our volunteer construction slots in January.

Close says the Wofford group was eager to learn and serve. “They could have chosen a month abroad or a warm classroom every day, but instead they chose to serve others, and this speaks to the caliber of students, their families and Wofford as an institution,” he adds.

Sarah Burnett, Habitat’s family services coordinator, and Cindy Johnson, one of the organization’s homeowners, met with the class to give other perspectives of how the organization does its work and what a Habitat home can mean to a family.

“Most of these homeowners have been renting, often moving around frequently,” DeMars explains. “Generally, it’s unstable housing if they’re renting. They don’t plan ahead and often they don’t learn to take care of the property. Habitat has programs to help them and providing them things like lawnmowers makes a difference.”

DeMars points out that his Interim had three components – building affordable housing, saving the environment and transforming a community. “This is the transforming a community part,” he says. “If the homeowners are going to keep these homes, it’s only because they continue to make their mortgage payments and chose to maintain the house and the property. In the process, they will learn to think ahead and learn about being good neighbors. They will expect to be there longer than a year or two, and this will change them culturally.”

Students participating in the Interim class were:

Dylan C. Alderman, a first-year student from Charleston, S.C.
Hannah R. Cambre, a junior humanities major from Lexington, S.C.
Harrison G. Chase, a junior biology major with a minor in music performance from Charlotte, N.C.
Blake E. Cunningham, a first-year student from Cornelius, N.C.
Colin D. Dral, a first-year student from Zeeland, Mich.
Logan J. Easler, a first-year student from Flat Rock, N.C.
Frances E. Ford, a senior French and international affairs major with a minor in Arabic from Franklin, Tenn.
Zifan Gu, a junior computer science major with minors in mathematics and physics from Moore, S.C.
Andrew F. Hall, a first-year student from Elgin, S.C.  
Jack W. Haymond, a first-year student from Suwanee, Ga.
Jaheem N. Hazel, a first-year student from Beaufort, S.C.
John S. Jeffery, a sophomore psychology major from Columbia, S.C.
Michala C. Lee, a junior biology major from Goose Creek, S.C.
Tyreece J. Luther, a sophomore finance major from Arcadia, Fla.
Irvin J. Mulligan, a first-year student from Yemassee, S.C.
Tyler J. Neal, a first-year student from Davidson, N.C.
Seth A. Rogers, a sophomore from McColl, S.C.
Williams L. Terrell, a first-year student from Brevard, N.C.
Emma C. Trollinger, a first-year student from Charlotte, N.C.
Richard D. Vancleave, a sophomore from Danville, Ky.