Clearing the Way for Others: Meet Habitat for Humanity Club President Krista Ethier-Whitmore ’14

Krista Ethier-WhitemoreOn Saturday, April 20, students joined Frank Daggett and Kathryn Cody from the College’s Mercy Center on the 80-mile round trip to Fryeburg, Maine, to help complete renovations at the Mother Seton House. Founded on the mission “to support pregnant women, new mothers and infants in need,” the Mother Seton House provides an opportunity for Saint Joseph’s students to give their time to a good cause. One of the crewmembers was nursing student Krista Ethier-Whitmore ’14, president of the College’s Habitat for Humanity Club.

When did work begin for the College at the Mother Seton House?

The Mercy Center has had a connection with the Mother Seton House for a while – during baby-goods drives, this is one of the organizations we donated items to. Frank Daggett doubles as Mercy Center director and advisor for the Habitat Club, so when he told me about the work going on at the Mother Seton House, I knew that I personally wanted to help and that it would be a great location for Habitat to donate time.

The Habitat for Humanity Club started working at Mother Seton House last semester. We had a workday in October where we helped clean old plywood and plastic sheeting out of the garage, then did some yard work. We returned on April 20 to do some projects on the inside of the house. The house is almost finished and ready to accept residents.

As president of the Habitat club, do you see more than just club members participating?

We have had Habitat officers and members participate, folks from the Mercy Center, a few representatives from the Feeney Players, and a some students who were looking for community service hours. I like to keep the Habitat programs open to anyone who is interested in participating. If the desire to help is present in someone, then we can find a job for him or her.

What was the day like for you and the other volunteers?

We arrived in Fryeburg at 10 a.m. Mother Seton House Director Cyndi Broyer was there to greet us and gave us a tour of the house to show us the progress and what jobs were available for the day. We broke for lunch at 12:15, and when we were done eating, we wrapped up what painting jobs were left and cleaned our brushes and workstations. We left the house at 1:20 p.m.

There were plenty of projects for us. The house has three stories plus a basement, and there was something to do on each level. Most of what we did was to paint and clean floors and bathtubs. A few students helped set up a shelving unit in the basement. The third floor needed some wall spackle, two closet floors needed scrubbing, some students spent their time on the porch to paint closet doors, and Frank Daggett was outside working on the yard. One non-SJC volunteer came by and helped with some kitchen cleaning, and a hired plumber was working on the second-floor bathroom.

I painted in the biggest bedroom that had the most jobs. Including myself, there were five people in there to paint. I also washed the closet floor that I had painted earlier in the day. This wasn’t as simple as using a mop. The floor needed a liberal scrubbing with a sponge.

How would you describe the progress of the renovation?

Of the things left to do in the house, the only structural needs are to install some closet and cabinet doors and to place the washer and dryer on a laundry pedestal. Other than that, there are several cosmetic jobs, and a group of volunteers is scheduled to finish those things next weekend. Our work was contributing to the last leg of the race. After the cosmetics and furniture are taken care of, the house will be ready.

Habitat for HumanityWhat has your time with the Habitat for Humanity Club been like?

I was involved with Habitat my freshman year as a club member. In my sophomore year, I was elected as vice-president. Last year’s president asked me if I would like to be president for this year, and I of course said yes.

I stick with it because I am excited about Habitat’s mission, and participating in the improvement of others’ lives enriches mine. I cannot speak for the other members, although many of them have told me that working with Habitat does not feel like work, but rather it is fun. I also feel the same. I have done a lot of other volunteer work here at SJC and in the past, but Habitat is special. Being able to enter into a home-building or improvement project and see the progress that your work has done instills a certain sense of gratification.

Habitat is about building homes, but it goes deeper. We are building a place for successful futures, and we are supporting community. I do the work I do because I believe that one should do the right thing just because it is right. I feel that I am being the best “me” when I work with Habitat and missions similar to it.

How does the work at the Mother Seton House inspire you?

The mission of Mother Seton House is to “support pregnant women, new mothers, and infants in need.” The house itself is a physical refuge for these people, but there are programs in place to teach these women how to transition into independent living situations, find jobs and learn other tasks in order to support themselves and their children. Any time a woman is in a desperate situation but chooses to hold on to her children and make them a priority, it should be easy for her to find resources to help her in that decision.

I am proud to support MSH because doors of opportunity are being opened for these women (many my age) and their beautiful babies. My contribution to the house gets these gals one step closer to a safe, compassionate home, and this is abundantly positive.

For more about the Mother Seton House and Saint Joseph’s Mercy Center, visit them online at www.mothersetonhouse.com and campus ministry.