Constance Steadman was afraid to live in her own home.
“I was scared to walk into my bathroom because the floor made a popping sound when I stepped on it and I was afraid I was going to fall through,” she said. “There was a lot of air coming into the house from outside and the ceiling was leaking.”
Steadman applied for help through the City of Marshall and was chosen to receive home renovations through the Neighborhood Renewal Initiative. The initiative is a collaboration between the City of Marshall and East Texas Baptist University (ETBU) to pour into the local community.
ETBU students on scholarship are required to do 12 hours of service a semester. This is one of the ways in which they can meet their requirement.
“We want to put hands and feet to our faith and serve people in the community by making the houses they live in liveable,” said Lisa Seeley, director of Global Education and the Great Commission Center at ETBU. “Marshall is a poor community. All of our schools are Title I schools, and 60-96% of students are on free lunch.”
Seeley said that the partnership started after ETBU heard about some City of Marshall funds that are earmarked for repairing houses in the community.
The City of Marshall (through the Housing and Urban Development Department) covers the cost of construction materials, while donations from the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering and a grant from the Texas Baptist Mission Foundation paid for tools and long-term investments for future years. Four home renovations have been completed so far and plans are underway for new construction projects that students can take on from start to finish.
Seeley added that she hopes this program will lead to the creation of an ETBU construction management degree.
“It gives students the chance to learn while serving,” she said, adding that students particularly enjoy having the opportunity to see their finished product come together.”
Cameron Burger, director of construction at ETBU, said students who volunteer with the revitalization project learn the value of teamwork, perseverance and hard work.
“Depending on the job (students) will learn how to use a wide variety of tools and how to do basic to advanced aspects of construction,” he said. Adding that the work they do has a lasting impact on a family in need.
“Each home (renovation) that we do really just gives me a sense of joy,” said Sean Sindelar a student who worked on Steadman’s house. “Knowing that we were able to help these people with their homes, something that they take pride in and cherish, just fills me up inside every time.”
Sindelar, who has worked on several home renovations, said his favorite part was watching the homeowners see the finished product.
“You can just see the great amount of joy on their face, and it makes all the hard work worth it and then some,” he said.
Thanks to ETBU staff, Sindelar and the other student volunteers, Steadman was able to spend Christmas of 2016 in her newly renovated home, which thanks to donations, was also stocked with a new carpet, furniture and appliances.
“I sure thank the students of ETBU and the City of Marshall,” Steadman said. “Because if it wasn’t for this, I don’t know where I’d be right now. We had a bad storm about a month ago and I don’t think the house would’ve survived without the renovations.”