House United brings rival schools together to benefit Alabama communities

Auburn University and University of Alabama students paint the outside of a Habitat for Humanity home for a Lee County family. Students are working to finish the home in time Christmas.AUBURN UNIVERSITY – Auburn University and the University of Alabama are collaborating with Habitat for Humanity to build homes for Alabama residents and this week united to complete a home in time for Christmas for a Lee County family.

Students and staff from both universities are working with homebuilders from Geordan Communities and staff from Lee County Habitat for Humanity to provide the finishing touches necessary to prepare the home for the family to move in before Christmas.

“Christmas is a time for family and homecoming; it is extraordinary to join in preparing this special house for its new family to come home to,” said Ralph Foster, director of the Auburn University Office of Public Service.

The two institutions partnered with Habitat for Humanity to start the House United program in 2011.

“The students all share the common value of service: the University of Alabama does a tremendous amount of service work in their area; Auburn does a tremendous amount of service work. It’s engrained in the student culture at both institutions, as it is at a lot of other universities across the state,” said Foster. “So what better way to get together with your chief rival and do something together?”

The first build was scheduled to take place in Baldwin County, but after the devastating tornadoes in Tuscaloosa in April 2011, the decision was made to move the build to Tuscaloosa. Students, faculty, staff and alumni from both institutions came together to work on houses for two families in the Holt Community in Tuscaloosa County.

In 2012, a group of 39 made the trip from Auburn to Baldwin County for the House United build. Students from Auburn’s Alternative Spring Break group also collaborated with the Office of Public Service for the project.

Volunteers from both universities said they chose to join the Christmastime project this year because they wanted to find a way to give back to their community.

“I’d always heard about Habitat and I was never actually able to get involved because of soccer, my busy schedule, and so my counselor sent me an email about House United,” said Auburn University student Alyse Scott. “To give a woman something that she’s always wanted, I think that’s really important. Just knowing that she’s going to be in a warm house with her family who she loves by Christmas, that’s just really special. That’s the season of giving if anything.”

“It’s the Christmas season, I wanted to give back and this sounded like a great way to come out, and especially be united with people I’ve never met for the same cause. It feels really nice,” said Julia Adams, a student at the University of Alabama. “To be united in this cause is greater than any rivalry for sure.”

Foster said that the experience is meaningful to him both as an Alabamian and career outreach worker.

“Personally, as a lifelong resident of Alabama, I’m concerned about the needs of our community. That’s what university outreach is all about,” Foster said. “It’s the university extending its resources to the community to better the quality of life for all citizens in our state.”

(Written by Carol Nelson.)

Contact: Ralph Foster, Office of Public Service, (334) 844-5118 (, or
Mike Clardy, Office of Communications and Marketing, (334) 844-9999 (