Athletics staffers building Habitat for Humanity house

Published: April 08, 2016

Serving the community, building camaraderie

By Aaron Bell, Human Resources

Image Jenny Borg Habitat Build 205k jpg Jenny Borg, Assistant Director of Special Projects

Under the watchful and patient guidance of Gerry Gardetto, Habitat for Humanity site manager, Notre Dame Athletics staff members work to wrap the newly completed wooden frame of a Habitat home in a blue skin-like membrane designed to keep moisture out. While a team of volunteers hold and unwind the giant roll, others follow closely with hammers and staple guns working to permanently secure it to the wood frame.

As part of a fall 2014 initiative designed to increase opportunities for outreach and team building, the athletic department is participating in a Habitat for Humanity build in Mishawaka. The home is the second the department has built.

Habitat for Humanity International is a Christian organization, founded in 1976. The organization was founded on the notion that everyone should have a simple, decent place to live in dignity and safety. Homes are built using volunteer labor; homeowners are required to contribute around 500 hours of “sweat equity” into building their own or other project homes.

The athletic department’s first build began primarily as a student athlete project, but with their busy schedules of classes, practices and games, additional help was needed to keep the build running smoothly.
Department staff pitched in.

Image Lizzie Mikes Habitat Build 145k jpg Lizzie Mikes, Fighting Irish Media Intern

“The great thing is the feeling of camaraderie the staff don’t necessarily get during the work day. Here they’re working together on a common project, which is such a good cause — helping the community,” says Maureen McNamara, assistant athletic director. “The response has been unbelievable.”

Sharon Hawkins, athletics human resources consultant, says what she finds so rewarding about the project “is helping people from the community who are willing to help themselves by working to build their own house.”

The current project now includes the participation of not only the athletic department staff but also coaches and Monogram Club members.

When this build comes to an end in the spring of 2016, McNamara expects as many as 200 of the 350 or so athletics staff members to have participated. “Everybody has so much fun when they get out there, even the people who’ve never done anything like this before.”

The build will end with a house blessing in May, enabling student participants to attend before leaving for summer break. Says Jenny Borg, assistant director of special projects for athletics, “It feels like a special thing you’re doing. It’s an awesome thing to be part of.” For more information about being a part of a Habitat for Humanity build in St. Joseph County, visit