Architecture and Engineering Club strives to bring disaster aid

Instead of sleeping in as most do on Saturdays, three dozen people decided to skip snoozing to walk the halls of UAA.

The fundraising walk Jan. 26 equally supported the university’s Architecture and Engineering Club and the local Habitat for Humanity chapter.

The money the Architecture and Engineering Club receives when fundraising goes toward traveling expenses to send members on expeditions to build homes through Habitat for Humanity, said Kimi Elliott, a club member and civil engineering major graduating in May.

This year 12 students will help from May 5 to May 19 in Miami – the first location hit by Hurricane Katrina. It will cost about $2,000 per student, club adviser Robert Maxwell said.

Jenny McLaughlin, club member and first-year architecture and engineering major, said the 37 walkers brought in $1,670 by the end of the event, but some were still collecting money and they expect a minimum of $500 more.

“I think people had a lot of fun,” said Holly Darbous, club member and second-year construction management major. She said it was a chance for community members to check out the campus.

Walkers enjoyed a completely heated journey – minus a few blasts of cold air when entering a differently acclimated structure – through buildings connected by enclosed bridges known as the UAA spine. The route went from Rasmuson Hall to the Bookstore to the Consortium Library and back, a total of one mile. Some walkers did this three times.

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“They were sweating,” Maxwell said.

Maxwell came up with the idea for the first walk, held last year after a student asked how long the spine was. Last year the Friday/Saturday event held in late March and early April had over 40 walkers who raised funds about equal to this year. They decided to move this year’s walk to January when it was colder outside and people were looking for things to do. They choose Saturday because it would allow more people from the community to attend, though they lost some of the captive-audience faculty members they had on Friday the year before.

“We hope to do this year after year after year, building this into a bigger event,” Maxwell said.

The club will discuss ideas for bettering the walk at their next meeting, such as McLaughlin’s suggestions for moving the start time from 9 a.m. to later in the day and asking the Starbucks near the library to remain open.

The club’s next big fundraiser is hosting the Fur Rendezvous Outhouse Race on Feb. 23. They will receive money through the $50 entry fee and by building outhouses, for those teams that don’t want to hassle with construction, for $250 a sled.

There are other opportunities to help the Architecture and Engineering club: Plans for a bachelor action in April, at an off-campus location to allow for alcohol, is on the agenda. Last year they also did raffles and made $500 selling birdhouses and Krispy Kreme donuts.

“And we build very serious sheds,” Maxwell said. “They’re really strong.”

A standard 10-by-10 shed costs $2,000, and half is profit. Maxwell claims these sturdy structures could withstand a hurricane.

Club members, who normally travel to newly hurricane-devastated areas, are pleased that they have not had to visit such sites recently since there have been no seriously devastating landfall hurricanes in the U.S. over the past two years. However, after last year’s trip to Louisiana, they are eyewitnesses to the fact that there is still work to be done after Hurricane Katrina.

Second-year architecture and engineering major Brad Eberhardt visited New Orleans in May 2006. He saw firsthand the devastation in the Ninth Ward. There was no electricity and the unbelievable strength of the water had left remains of leveled buildings.

“You don’t know how much disaster is there,” he said. “You have to be there to see it.”

Elliott added that her trip in May 2007 revealed that many homes still remain vacant. She said people still need help affording new homes because many of the houses destroyed by the hurricane were so old the old insurance policies didn’t cover them as thoroughly as new plans would have.

“What surprised me was a lot of home owners from Habitat weren’t actually home owners before,” Elliott said. Instead many rented before and lost everything in the hurricane. She said Habitat for Humanity gives them a chance to move back with a fresh start.

Architecture and Engineering Club meetings are Thursdays at 8:15 p.m. in University Center Room 123. For more information about the club or fundraisers, visit teamfrostbite.uaa.alaska.edu.