Habitat for Humanity rakes in money for affordable housing

Fifth annual Rake-a-Thon benefits Harmony Ridge project

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The 2017 fundraising goal aims to collect $50,000 by Dec. 1.

Courtesy Habitat for Humanity

This past Saturday marked the fifth annual Rake-a-Thon for the Habitat of Humanity of Greater Charlottesville, a community-wide event to raise awareness and funding for local affordable housing efforts. 

The charitable focus of this year’s event was raising funds to help build Harmony Ridge, a mixed-income neighborhood off of Fifth Street in Charlottesville. Ten of the homes in the 14-home neighborhood are being built for Habitat partner families. Both University students and local volunteers will be assisting with the building of these homes.

Event participants were divided into “rakers” and “neighbors.” The volunteer rakers spread out to the predetermined houses of the neighbors on the day of the event, while the neighbors agreed in advance to give a donation to Habitat in exchange for volunteers raking their lawns.

The 2017 Rake-a-Thon consisted of more than 550 volunteers working to rake over 120 lawns in the Charlottesville community. Over 250 of the listed volunteers were University students, both undergraduate and graduate, in association with student organizations and Greek societies. Beyond University involvement, volunteer groups also included local businesses, representatives from local high schools, a team of Habitat home buyers, and youth from the Southwood community, among others.

“The Rake-a-Thon Campaign is an initiative to bring together students at the University with a wide array of Charlottesville community members,” said Garrett Trent, associate director of volunteer engagement at Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville and a University alumnus. Trent emphasized that an event like this helps to bring a community together, saying that the Rake-a-Thon is an opportunity “to create a platform through service for building bridges” between people.

Ibtesam Zahid, a fourth-year College student and Muslim Student Association president, spoke of the MSA’s involvement in the event, saying that the Rake-a-Thon was “a very rewarding experience … [by] helping not only the Charlottesville community but also building bonds amongst ourselves by serving.” 

The MSA was one of the many student-led organizations involved in the Rake-a-Thon.  

The fundraising goals of this year’s Rake-a-Thon are deliberately more ambitious than last year. The 2016 Rake-a-Thon raised $10,000 and had more than 400 rakers participate. In contrast, the 2017 fundraising goal aims to collect $50,000 and have more than 500 rakers participate. 

Since the organization will be accepting donations until Dec. 1, there is currently no definitive amount of money raised.

The Habitat was informed in August that the organization would be awarded a $20,000 matching grant in partnership with State Farm and Habitat for Humanity International, which prompted the notable increase in Habitat’s charitable goals for the 2017 Rake-a-Thon.  

“We consider [the Rake-a-Thon] our flagship event and even created a student group of different leaders from around Grounds to help plan,” said Callie Robinson, a fourth year-College student and the University’s Habitat for Humanity chapter president.

The University’s Habitat for Humanity chapter began coordinating the Rake-a-Thon event before June of this year.

“We really have created a great working relationship with the office,” Robinson said. “Our team and the office worked incredibly hard to put together such a meaningful and fun fundraising event.” 

“This event has the capacity to just grow and grow,” Trent said. “U.Va. students are really driving this forward and we want to see it continue to be just a way to bring a lot of people together in support of a great mission.”

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