May 30, 2023
Gold Organizes Habitat for Humanity Spring Break Service Trips
While many college-aged students headed south to celebrate Spring Break at a beach, three teams from Carnegie Mellon University traveled to Florida, Texas, and Louisiana with a different mission in mind—to help others. Their Habitat for Humanity Spring Break service trips not only benefitted people needing housing and community support—it enabled the students to grow personally and use skills developed during their studies at CMU.
In his senior year, recent graduate Brett Gold (BS ’23) served as the president of CMU’s Habitat for Humanity Chapter. He explains that the three groups who volunteered during Spring Break were focused on assisting disadvantaged communities. “We chose the locations because they allowed us to experience different [economic] cultures and fulfill a purpose,” he states.
Habitat for Humanity often serves impoverished areas with low home-ownership levels. The Louisiana region, in particular, continues to be impacted by climate change—specifically sea level rise and sinking land.
Gold joined the team volunteering in Thibodaux, Louisiana—an area that was devastated by Hurricanes Ida and Katrina. Even years after the severe weather events, the community was struggling, Gold says. “A lot of our work was focused on repair, but many residents were seeking to get back their sense of community. We also helped to teach them financial literacy to build hope for the future.” To keep this momentum moving forward, the students also volunteered to spruce up a Habitat for Humanity ReStore that sells gently used furniture to support the organization’s mission.
“There was a backorder on some supplies we needed for repair work, so we jumped in to work in other ways that could help the community.” Even on a day off from work, Gold’s team took on the challenge of cleaning up a neighborhood basketball court covered in mud and debris from the hurricanes.
Gold calls volunteerism a “force of change” and says that the week-long projects inspired him and the other students.
The two other teams worked in Deerfield Beach, Florida and Harris County, Texas, taking on projects including landscaping and roofing—and building what Gold labels “opportunities to lead by example.” Families who benefit from Habitat for Humanity’s work must also volunteer to build the house, allowing housing recipients and volunteers to bond as they watch the future come together for a family.
Gold, who accepted a position with Michael Baker Corporation post-graduation, says that his transportation and city planning studies helped him during the Habitat for Humanity projects. He plans to pursue a future in public service. He believes that engineering is a strong building block to address and solve the housing, community, and infrastructure issues so many impoverished areas face.
He also plans to continue volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and is excited to watch the chapter at CMU grow. “It’s been gaining traction and members over the past few years,” Gold adds. “We pitch our vision to students and faculty of what we know the world could look like if we built a community centered around volunteerism—and work to understand and feel the impacts of housing insecurity.”