Villanova students on "building blitz" in Picayune

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

PICAYUNE, MS  (WLOX) -   College students from Villanova University in Pennsylvania are making a difference in South Mississippi.

Dozens of students are involved in a "building blitz" in Pearl River County. Their goal is to construct a "Habitat" home and do it in  48 hours.

It's the latest contribution in a long term commitment from that university.

Students from Villanova, located in eastern Pennsylvania, were among the first volunteers who came to South Mississippi right after Katrina hit.

Since then, students from that university have made at least nine trips to continue their hurricane recovery work.

The latest effort is a building blitz in Picayune.

The sound of nail guns echoes through the neighborhood, as college students maneuver another wall in place.  The home construction is in high gear.

"We are doing a blitz build, which means we are putting up a house in 48 hours for Habitat for Humanity," said Emily Empel, a Villanova student from New Jersey.

"Let's get number 11," the foreman instructed the young people.

The guys in the orange shirts are the construction foremen.  The college kids, in light blue, are the building crew.

The mud and the muck were an unexpected bonus after early morning rains.  But that hasn't slowed these Villanova volunteers.  They're a little "blitz crazy".

"I want "blitz fives" after this one!  And this has to "blitz" on top of that," joked Tommy Davidson.

"We've been calling "blitz" everything. We're "blitz" helping out each other. We're going to give "blitz" fives, there's a "blitz five" right there," he said.

"I'm excited," said the prospective home owner.

Tonya Jordan was anxious and excited. She and her children will be living in this home. She sees more than wall frames going up.

"Actually, I'm walking through telling them, this is my boy's room, this is my room. So it's really neat. Really neat. An awesome feeling, awesome," she explained.

Many of these student volunteers have been here before.  Cody Tucci made his first trip as a junior at Villanova.

He's got his master's degree now and feels a real connection to South Mississippi.

"Just love the feeling that I get when I get down here and see everybody, now that I've made friends down here and built relationships with people. It's a good feeling when you come back and see the new families each year that are moving into the neighborhood and you get to help them out," said Tucci.

The home should be finished by Sunday morning.

The building blitz is happening in a Picayune neighborhood called "Genesis Village".  There are eight Habitat homes there and the Villanova students have had a hand in building each one.

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