Two weeks before Christmas Day 2011, University of Kentucky students presented a Lexington family with a gift far too large to fit under any Christmas tree -- a home of their own.
Two months earlier, in October, students came together with a common goal: to build a Habitat for Humanity house for UK employee DaShanda Player. The university's students from fraternities, sororities and the UK Habitat for Humanity Campus Chapter; UK Division of Student Affairs staff; and the Player family saw their hard work pay off when the house on Breathitt Avenue was dedicated, the keys delivered and the family took up residence just before the Christmas holiday.
Player, a mother of four, is the first in her family to own a home, and she said it would not have been possible without the students.
Members of the Interfraternity Council, Panhellenic Association, and UK Habitat Chapter also raised enough money, $44,000, to complete the house. Over a dozen Student Affairs staff members also supported the student initiative through a staff work day in early November.
"It was my pleasure to help support the students who worked so hard on the Habitat for Humanity build," said assistant director of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs, Vinny Sandy. "Service to others is a strong value of fraternities and sororities, so I am proud the students initiated this project and worked so diligently and unselfishly to generously contribute to the community. I am always amazed by what can be accomplished through this teamwork."
During the two months it took to build the house, more than 120 sorority and fraternity members volunteered to help make this home a reality, logging more than 250 hours working at build site. All of UK's sororities and fraternities were represented throughout the build.
"This has been a wonderful experience that so many UK students contributed too," said Liz Brinker, philanthropy chair of Panhellenic Executive Council. "This is a wonderful accomplishment for the Greek community, and something that the Greek system can be extremely proud of."
Students saw their community service as a way to give back. "We come here to get our degrees, and now we can give back a little bit to the university and specifically to someone who works for the university," Seth Fortenbery, executive vice president of Interfraternity Council, said.
Will Blackford, a member of Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity, dedicated several days to participate in the building process. He was especially impressed by the camaraderie between organizations.
"There is something special about this campus and our different organizations and communities. When we are united around a single cause it is absolutely amazing what can be accomplished," Blackford said. "It was simply about giving of ourselves for others who deserve a new and better opportunity at life."
Working all those Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays was worth it when Player received the keys to her new home. It was the moment that all the participating organizations and individuals had been working so hard to achieve.
Fortenbery said presenting the keys to the Player family was one of the most amazing moments he had been a part of because it represented so many people working for one cause. "And that's the symbolic achievement that we have been looking for, 'Here's your house, now enjoy it.'"