Posted on Oct 31, 2007

President Stephen C. Ainlay talks to reporters at house at 1124 Barrett St. donated by the college to Habitat for Humanity with members of the Phi Upsilon fraternity standing behind him.

Union College has transferred ownership of a house to Habitat for Humanity of Schenectady County that the entire campus community will help to refurbish, President Stephen C. Ainlay announced today.

Local Habitat officials believe this is the first time that a college in the Capital Region has provided the property and the labor to Habitat.

The two-family home on Barrett Street was among 13 purchased by faculty and staff under the Union-Schenectady Initiative, an ambitious plan to revitalize the neighborhood west of the campus unveiled in October 1998. The College assumed ownership of the home in February 2004 after the former employee moved.

Ainlay, calling Habitat “a remarkable organization”, said donating the house presents the campus with an extraordinary opportunity. Shortly after he became president last year, Ainlay challenged the campus community to re-cultivate its sense of social-connectedness and civic commitment.

He envisions the Union community – students, faculty, staff and alumni – taking the lead in restoring the house, which was built in 1910.

“My hope is that all of us can work alongside others from Schenectady and the family that will occupy the house to complete the project,” he said. “It will make a material difference, and it should pull us together as a community working for the common good.”

Habitat for Humanity International is a nonprofit, nondenominational housing organization. Since 1976, Habitat has built more than 200,000 houses around the world, providing more than 1 million people in some 3,000 communities with safe, decent, affordable shelter.

Chip Miller ’09, front, and Gabe Kramer '09 and, Psi Upsilon fraternity members volunteer for Habitat for Humanity at 1124 Barrett St.

Jeffrey W. Clark, executive director of the Schenectady County chapter, said he was grateful for the College’s level of commitment to his organization. He praised Ainlay for not only donating the house, but also for making the renovation a campus-wide project.

“We are thrilled to have created a plan that is suitable for Union College,” Clark said. “The idea that we can change the dynamics of a family by selling them a good house under the Habitat for Humanity model and offer the children the prospect of a college education has enormous potential to truly change lives for the better. We look forward to working with the students, faculty and staff to make this a fun and rewarding experience for all.”

Some Union groups have already begun work on the house, and Clark expects it to be ready for a family to move in this spring.

Ainlay noted the College has always valued its strong relationship with the community. In 2006, the College was among the 25 “best neighbor” urban colleges and universities, and the only one in New York, recognized for positive economic and social benefit to their communities. The College joined schools such as the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Southern California and Yale University.

“Working together on this Habitat house, we have a chance to make a difference in people’s lives and demonstrate our commitment to the community beyond our campus and in which we live,” Ainlay said.