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Habitat for Humanity builds houses, community with 'Blitz Build'


Burgess Robinson, a studio art and physics major, nails shingles on the roof of a Habitat for Humanity house during the ‘Blitz Build’ on Saturday.

Quiana Phillips was sitting in class at Miller-Motte College in March 2011 when she received a call on her cellphone from an unknown number.

Phillips was a full-time student at Miller-Motte in Raleigh by night — and a full-time employee at UNC’s Campus Health Services by day.

Glancing down at her phone, she ignored the call.

But when the number called back again minutes later, she decided to step out of class to answer it — and what she heard on the other end of the line changed her life.

A Habitat for Humanity representative told her she had been selected from a pool of applicants to receive a house of her own.

“I just started screaming and crying in the bathroom at school,” said Phillips, who has since graduated college.

“A couple of my classmates came over to ask if I was OK, and I just yelled, ‘I got my house!’”

This weekend, UNC students worked to help build Phillips’ new Chapel Hill house and two others as part of Blitz Build, a volunteer event organized by UNC’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity.

The idea of the blitz is to make as much progress as possible building the house in a single weekend, said Madison Powers, co-chairwoman of the UNC chapter.

Grey Idol, the chapter’s fundraising co-chairman, said he likes seeing the progress made on blitz builds.

“You get to see the entire house come together, as opposed to just doing one task in one day and not being able to tell what has changed,” he said.

While some of the 60 Blitz Build volunteers worked on the house for Phillips, others were sent to work on different houses also sponsored by Orange County Habitat for Humanity.

“Once we got here, there were so many different things and so many people that they just put us where we needed to be,” said Nicole Chaluissant, UNC fundraising co-chairwoman.

Phillips had to go through a lengthy application process before she was selected to receive a home, said Alice Jacoby, Orange County Habitat partnership and volunteer manager.

Criteria included residency in Orange County, a classification as “low income” and a willingness to partner with the organization. Phillips’ connection to UNC also made her an obvious choice, Jacoby said.

Phillips lives in Chapel Hill with her two daughters, ages 14 and 3.

Phillips should be able to move in by early spring, Jacoby added.

But before that can happen, Phillips and her mother must contribute a total of 325 hours of “sweat equity,” or time spent building her own or other houses, Jacoby said.

Those required hours help build a sense of community, which volunteers said is the best part of working with Habitat.

“I’ve never been able to meet the family before,” said Samantha Ranlet, a sophomore volunteer who also worked with Habitat in high school.

“It’s more rewarding when you get to actually meet the person and know that they are living in the house that you worked hard for them to have,” she said.

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Phillips said she is grateful for what Habitat is giving to her and her daughters.

“It’s a blessing,” Phillips said.

“I could say thank you a thousand times and still wouldn’t say it enough.”

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