In April 1995, the Upper Arlington City School District (UA) announced its commitment to build a home for a low-income family in partnership with Greater Columbus Habitat for Humanity. Since that time, more than 1,000 volunteers have helped this school-initiated effort, the first of its kind in the nation, to succeed.
Students, staff members, parents and interested community members were invited to assist in raising funds and building the "UA School House," a 1,100 square foot, three bedroom structure. Habitat families agree to pay "sweat equity" before moving into their new dwellings. The family selected for the UA School House donated more than 375 hours of volunteer time toward their home.
Fundraising and publicity activities were initiated to raise the $36,000 needed to purchase land, supplies and materials. One district-wide event, a walk-a-thon, coincided with the groundbreaking ceremony. Students, staff and community members secured sponsors and donations went to building the home. Local businesses also assisted with the fundraising efforts. Barnes & Noble customers who presented a customized "coupon" had a percentage of their purchased donated to the UA School House project. In another endeavor, holiday shoppers of Cheryl's & Co. were invited to decorate their own cookies. 15% of the profits were donated to the UA School House project.
The UA School – Habitat for Humanity project has had a number of positive effects: the students' and community's awareness of housing needs in Columbus and around the world has been heightened; the project has enabled people of different backgrounds to learn from and respect one another by working side by side toward a common goal and participants have gained a sense of pride and gratification from making a contribution to the project and one family's future.
The Upper Arlington City School District recently decided to work on a second Habitat House.