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SHU students spend spring break building houses

The Habitat for Humanity student organization at Seton Hall spent their spring break building houses in Oklahoma City with the Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity.

Gregg Quackenbush, a sophomore biology and physical therapy major, explained that the collegiate challenge chair, Dennis Schuck, picked Oklahoma because it allowed him to offer 24 people the opportunity to participate in the service trip. Quackenbush said other locations would have limited the number of participants to roughly half.

“After picking, I think that Dennis realized how interesting it would be to go to a state that really no one from New Jersey has likely been to, or has ever thought about visiting in the future,” Quackenbush said. “We found this to be true when he asked us why we were excited to be going to Oklahoma, and the majority of us answered that it’s a place that we never thought we would go to and likely will never get the chance to visit again.”

Twenty-four students from the SHU Habitat for Humanity built a home in Oklahoma City during spring break. Photo courtesy of Dennis Schuck

Schuck, a junior political science major, noted Oklahoma City’s beautiful community, and the pride each individual had in his or her community.

Schuck said they stayed in a local church and were able to interact with the members, which included a night filled with playing games and getting to know the youth.

Anthony Rodriguez, a sophomore chemistry major, said the Oklahoma vibe was slow-paced, and that everyone there was nice and almost carefree.

Rodriguez also said it was really cool to see how involved people are in their faith. He said this was especially evident when the youth group for Bible study came to the church where they were staying. He also said he was surprised by a “minimum” speed limit put on the roads.

The students talked about their experience building the houses alongside the homeowners. Quackenbush described the process of working with the Habitat community and homeowners as a new and exciting experience every single day. He said they started the week by sodding the yards of two neighboring houses. One group focused on interior work, while the other worked on the insulation of the walls and nailing wood inside of the house.

He said the final two days consisted of doing the framing of houses. They had built the frames piece-by-piece and nail-by-nail and raised them around the house as they went. Quackenbush compared the process to a big puzzle that they had to put together.

“I got really good at hammering nails by the end of the day after doing it about 200 times,” he said.

Tayla Frey, a junior public relations major, said building houses with the homeowners impacted her in a way she did not really expect. She described the day when they were building and putting up the framing of the house.

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She said she overheard the homeowners walking around and planning out the rooms, like which ones would be bedrooms for their children.

“After witnessing moments like those, it really put the work that we were all doing into perspective,” Frey said. “It highlights the fact that we are not just building houses, we’re building homes.”

The Habitat community also attended a dedication, where the homeowners received the keys to one of the houses they had worked on.

Frey said, “It represented the tireless hours of work that were dedicated to completing the home from everyone involved, including us, other volunteers, and members of the family, finally coming together for a greater purpose.”

Rodriguez called it an “incredible, eye-opening experience,” complete with blessings, prayers and bonds formed. “It was clear how appreciative and down-to-earth the family was, and how grateful they were for everyone that worked on their home,” he said.

Schuck called the unique dedication the culmination of all the hard work they put in and allowed them to truly see why they do it. He added that this was his third Habitat trip and the first time they had the opportunity to experience a dedication.

Schuck said, “The stand-out moment for me was seeing the little daughter playing with toys in her future room and just seeing how comfortable she was in the place she can now call home.”

Kristel Domingo can be reached at


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