Habitat for Humanity chapter awarded grant for goodwill

Joe Ladewski, president of Marquette’s Habitat chapter, paints at a house on Milwaukee's South Side Saturday.

For the second consecutive year, Marquette’s Habitat for Humanity student chapter was awarded a $2,000 matching grant from State Farm Insurance.

The group was presented with a check Saturday afternoon while painting and restoring a house on Milwaukee’s near South Side.

Marquette’s chapter applied for the grant in the fall and was approved in September, said Laura Brudzynski, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences and the organization’s vice president.

But in order to secure the grant money, Habitat chapter members were required to raise an additional $2,000 to match State Farm’s gift, she said. The student organization’s 120 members utilized bake sales, open mic nights and various other forms of fundraising to accomplish the goal.

The grand total of $4,000 will go toward the Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity chapter’s Youth United program, which encourages area high school students to participate in construction and restoration projects. The Milwaukee chapter coordinates service opportunities with the Marquette group.

“To give not just $2,000 – but to double that number – it’s great,” Brudzynski said.

Recently, State Farm contributed $10,000 to the Youth United program.

State Farm has been the national corporate sponsor of Habitat’s youth programs since 2007, said Kelly Savage, a public affairs specialist who presented the company’s check on Saturday. It contributes $1.1 million through 30 matching grants to college chapters each year, she said.

For Marquette, the $2,000 grant is ideal, said Joe Ladewski, president of Marquette’s Habitat chapter. But grants are also available in amounts of $5,000 and $10,000.

Larger schools like the University of Wisconsin–Madison, which received $10,000 from State Farm in 2009, have more members and resources available to match bigger donations, he said.

Ladewski, a senior in the College of Health Sciences, said Marquette’s chapter performs service work every weekend and sends volunteers to Oklahoma, Texas and Iowa during spring break.

Marquette’s Habitat chapter was established in 2000, but the Milwaukee chapter has been in existence for 26 years.

About 5,000 individuals, including college students, corporations and church groups, volunteer with the organization each year, said Melissa Herguth, Milwaukee Habitat’s development director.

She said the organization’s work has historically been concentrated in the city’s Harambee, Washington Park, Lindsay Heights and Clarke Square neighborhoods.

In February, the Milwaukee chapter was approved for a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development $6.8 million Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2 matching grant aimed at rehabilitating areas damaged by foreclosure and house abandonment.

As a result, the organization is now responsible for the construction of 100 new houses over the next three years, said Herguth, a 2005 graduate of Marquette’s social welfare and justice program.

The Milwaukee chapter currently receives about $1.5 million in annual corporate sponsorship from JPMorgan Chase, Sargento Cheese and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, she said.

It also received $250,000 from philanthropist Joseph Zilber’s $50 million neighborhood improvement project in 2008. Soon after, the group began its Brush with Kindness program, which provides painting, window installation and other simple home restoration services to low-income Milwaukeeans.

Terry Rule owns the home Marquette students worked on this weekend. He is a licensed X-ray technician, but has been out of work for the last three years due to a back injury. Rule said he stays busy volunteering with the Blessing Avenue blood drive.

“Everyone needs to lean on someone else at some time,” he said. “When you reach out and get a hand in return – that’s what community is about.”