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​Above, Mark Heissenbuttel ’79 holds up a Habitat T-shirt at
a dinner for PC students that he hosted with his wife, Pam,
in Wilmington, Del.
Below: Members of PC’s Habitat group that served in
Bridgeport, Conn.

Alumni, parents show Friar hospitality to Habitat students

Providence College alumni and parents of current and past students opened their homes and hearts to PC students who participated in weeklong Habitat for Humanity service trips during Spring Break.

Fifty students enjoyed one or more dinners and hearing tales of PC’s yesteryear as guests of alumni and parents in four states: Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Seven couples hosted student gatherings in their homes or area restaurants. In some circumstances, families offered their homes for showers and sent away the students with leftovers.

“It was so nice to have a little piece of home down there when we were serving in an area none of us had ever been,” said Meagan E. Sullivan ’14 (Plainville, Mass.), who was a leader of the Spring Lake, N.J., group.

Her 10-member crew was treated to dinner at a Jersey shore restaurant by Lauren and Christopher Andreach ’16P of Fair Haven, N.J. Other alumni and parent hosts were:

  • Connecticut: Trish ’89 and Francis ’90 Donelan of Fairfield, Pat ’88 and Maureen Duggan of Southport, Alice ’79 and Bob ’78 Gorman of Fairfield, and Carla and Ed Sheehan ’11P, ’13P, & ’16P of Fairfield.
  • Delaware: Mark ’79 and Pam Heissenbuttel of Wilmington.
  • Pennsylvania: Dr. Bob ’82 and Catherine Farrell of Seven Valleys.

The four couples in Connecticut took nightly turns hosting the 15 students who worked in Bridgeport. The Donelans, Sheehans, and Duggans all know each other, helping the students have lots to talk about and seeing another aspect of the Friar spirit evident in each household, said Chastity A. Mathurin ’15 (Lynn, Mass.). Mathurin and others in her group noted how much the students enjoyed hearing how the couples met.

“Each family opened their homes to us and reiterated how Providence College shares a bond that will never end,” she said. The students enjoyed meeting and interacting with the children in the families, she added.

“At the Donelans, we spent our time convincing the oldest son, who is a junior in high school, why he should apply to PC. For their youngest son (9 years old), it was not hard to convince him at all because he came to the door dressed up in PC gear from head to toe,” said Mathurin.

The site leader for the Bridgeport Habitat team, Gabriella S. Galeazzi ’15 (Lynn, Mass.), said, “It was really great being able to meet some alumni and share life at PC, then and now.” One of the things she enjoyed most was hearing comical accounts of how the couples met.

Tangible experiences, memories

Connecting with a family affiliated with the College while on a service trip made an already meaningful experience more profound, said Sullivan, the Spring

Lake leader who is the vice president of the PC chapter of Habitat for Humanity. The Andreachs were “so welcoming and were excited to hear about the work we were doing,” she said.

Sullivan and team members worked on two homes that were damaged extensively by Superstorm Sandy in October 2012. It was the second time in about three months that she provided storm relief, as she took part in the NOLA Immersion trip to New Orleans in January. That area continues to recover from the devastating 2005 hurricane.

The Spring Lake group’s work on the Jersey shore included putting in cabinets and crown moldings in a kitchen, tearing out moldy sheetrock and insulation, and installing new insulation. The work was made more meaningful to Sullivan because several of her friends’ families were impacted by Sandy. She didn’t mind missing a week on the beaches of Florida or Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, where many fellow students were vacationing, she said.

“Pairing the visible hard work we did with emotional connections we had, made for an incredible feeling that only serving others can make you feel,” said Sullivan, who also is the treasurer of the Student Alumni Association.

In all, 140 students took part in Habitat for Humanity projects at 12 sites in four states over

Spring Break. The impact of their work and dedication was plausible.

Several prospective homeowners sent notes of thanks, the York, Pa., group was singled out in a local newspaper, and two groups in New Jersey received more formal recognition. The City of Vineland, N.J., issued a proclamation declaring a Providence College Day, and students who worked in Cumberland County, N.J., received a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition from U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo. 

—Charles C. Joyce

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