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Room and boards

Temporary plywood residents raise funds for Habitat for Humanity

Published: Friday, April 13, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 21:07

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Trevor Stevens and Roger Zhang — THE BATTALION

Shack-A-Thon is a fundraiser for the Texas A&M chapter of Habitat for Humanity. Aggie Habitat will give all of the money raised to support the building of a local house.

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Trevor Stevens and Roger Zhang — THE BATTALION

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Trevor Stevens and Roger Zhang — THE BATTALION

The small village of shacks filled with student-squatters in front of Kyle Field, known as Shack-A-Thon, has been home to students from a dozen organizations this week. Some students out-bid while others out-built their fellow Aggies, but all helped to build a new home for a local family.

“When people walk by and see us living in these shacks and say, ‘What on earth are you people doing in here?’ it will give us a platform to talk about the poverty housing that happens right here in College Station,” said Hailey Minter, senior human resource development major and special events director for Aggie Habitat.

Shack-A-Thon is a fundraiser for the Texas A&M chapter of Habitat for Humanity, and seeks to raise awareness about the poverty housing that is prevalent in Bryan-College Station.

Shack-A-Thon is not poverty simulation, Minter said, because the shacks are nicer than the real shacks in which low-income residents of the community live.

“There are people living in conditions similar or worse than these in Bryan-College Station,” Minter said.

Aggie Habitat will give all of the money raised — almost $15,000 — to support the building of a local house. Aggie Habitat raises the money through an auction, “selling” plots for shack space. The minimum bid is $750 for a single plot and $3,500 for a double plot.

The double plot auction guarantees the highest bidder a shack, but one double plot is usually left for the single-plot auction. One group of Shack-A-Thon veterans developed a strategy to claim the remaining double plot without fronting the $3,500 double-plot minimum.

Lechner-McFadden, the freshman honors housing community and Bonfire “nerd crew,” kept their brains busy when Bonfire was no longer being built after the collapse. The “nerd crew” has been participating in Shack-A-Thon for more than a decade. Through the years, they developed a simple algorithm to guarantee the best bang for their buck.

By bidding double the average single-plot bid, the honors dorms only paid about $2,000 for a double-shack plot.

“We just had an excel spreadsheet worked out that calculated what we needed as the minimum bid,” said Joe Shepard, Lechner-McFadden leader and sophomore mechanical engineering major. “During the hour that bidding takes place online, [the average] can kind of jump around a bit. We don’t want to bid too much or that will raise the average needlessly, but we want to bid just enough so that we’re just above the average.”

The Lechner-McFadden crew sacrificed three weekends leading to Shack-A-Thon to build their shack, which was themed “Lord of the Rings: The Two Shacks.”

“A lot of them get really into their shacks,” Minter said. “Lechner-McFadden even has intricate paintings on theirs.”

In addition to decorating the outer walls of the shack with murals by local artists, the honors dorms recruited a freshman engineering major to draft the plans for the shack using computerized design software AutoCAD.

Each organization is responsible for raising funds not only to purchase a shack plot but also the materials needed to build the shack. The freshmen mentoring program GUIDE spent $1,600 on space, but saved money by reusing their shack from last year and by seeking sponsors for the event.

“Fuego sponsored a good portion of it. And then we just fundraised the rest,” said Ming Liu, sophomore business supply chain major.

Because the minimum bid for a single plot is $750, established organizations typically participate in Shack-A-Thon.

“You don’t start [your first] year and have a bunch of money in your account,” Liu said. “It’s more organizations that have more of a footing and then say they want to do Shack-A-Thon every year.”

Minter said Aggie Habitat is able to use the money from the fundraiser to help families that have worked hard to earn their homes.

“It’s just a really worthy cause to me … I want to help anyone that wants to improve their life,” Minter said.

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