Overwhelming support for Shack-a-Thon makes a ‘huge impact’

Submitted by Anna Rzewnicki on Friday Oct 17, 2014.

Poole College’s 2014 Shack-a-Thon team raised over $8,700 for this year's fundraiser coordinated by NC State's Habitat for Humanity student chapter, reports Casey Knosby, one of the college’s team leaders for this year’s event. 

This was the second time the Poole College's team raised over $8,000. Overall, the fundraiser brought in a total of $44,239 for Habitat for Humanity of Wake County.

"I am overwhelmed at how many people gave personally and how many also reached out to family and personal connections,” Knosby said.

That outreach helps to carry the message about poverty and homelessness that has been at the core of the Shack-a-Thon fundraiser since it was started in 1991 by the then-new NC State Habitat for Humanity student chapter.

Since then, student ‘shack’ teams representing colleges and student organizations across campus have raised about $200,000 for Habitat for Humanity of Wake County, said Melanie Rankin, director of development for the organization. Other colleges across the country are now also holding similar events, she said.

Poole College has raised more than $35,000 since forming its first team in 2009. It was a first-place fundraiser in 2012, with a record $8,222, and was in first place through the initial deadline for contributions this year. The team decided to not continue fundraising when the deadline was extended and dropped to second place behind the the College of Natural Resources, which raised $11,277.

“It’s good for Habitat when there’s this kind of competition between the teams,” Rankin said.

Impact and understanding the reality of homelessness

The student-led event has “a huge impact,” Rankin said. “They are getting close to (covering) the cost of building a new home,” which in Wake County is $65,000, in addition to the cost of land. “This year, they had bad weather, but still raised $10,000 more than last year,” she added.

That bad weather, Rankin said, is “certainly a reality for people who don’t have decent housing. When the elements are mild, it doesn’t seem so bad but you can see how it would feel” to be homeless when the weather is rainy and cold.

The week-long event held in late September each year begins with 20 teams constructing temporary living structures on a Sunday and keeping them occupied with student volunteers 24 hours a day until the shacks are deconstructed the following Saturday. Taking turns living in their shacks for a week – especially during inclement weather – gives team members a sense of the experiences of those who are homeless.

During the course of the week, students raise funds through direct contributions at their shacks and online, and by selling baked goods and other items. 

The teams also incorporate facts and statistics about poverty and homelessness at their sites and in fundraising communications.

A report in Business Insider magazine states that while Raleigh and Wake County are consistently ranked among the best places to live and work, the region also is among those cited in a Brookings Institution report on poverty in the U.S.

Money plus time, talent

“NC State students don’t just raise money,” Rankin said. “They come out and volunteer almost every Saturday during the school year. They’re great volunteers.”

The volunteer work days are “great team building” experiences that enable students to “do something different, something tangible,” she said. Among those helping with construction projects in the past few years are members of NC State’s student American Marketing Association chapter based in Poole College and Jenkins MBA students.

Funds raised at this year’s Shack-a-Thon will help cover the cost of building a home in downtown Raleigh, where the NC State student Habitat for Humanity chapter volunteers are helping with construction. “They are more than doubling the impact of the money when they donate their time, too,” Rankin said.

Sustainability message, too

With the launch of the Sustainability Initiative in Poole College in 2013, Poole College’s Shack-a-Thon team has created reusable modular wall, floor and ceiling units that are now being re-used for the college team's shack.

Dozens of students took turns staying in the Poole College shack, selling baked goods and Poole-branded merchandise. Included were members of Poole College’s Student Ambassadors, Peer Leaders, Student Network Group Mentors and the Poole Council. Members of the leadership team this year were:

  • Donations Coordinator Casey Knosby (Student Ambassador)
  • Staffing Coordinator Michelle Howard (Student Ambassador)
  • Marketing Coordinator Rachel Brame (Peer Leader) 


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