Helping hands arrived by the busload on Saturday to assist Ketly St. Juste achieve her dream of homeownership.
Dozens of freshman and transfer students from Palm Beach Atlantic University spent about four hours helping St. Juste with painting, caulking and other tasks in her new Greenacres home, which is being built by Habitat for Humanity of Palm Beach County. The nonprofit organization partners with families in need to build affordable homes together.
St. Juste, who already has invested more than 600 hours of work in the home, will live there with her teenage daughter. The school bus driver and single mom said she was thrilled to have so many volunteers show up on a Saturday to help her.
"They do it because they want to," she said. "They have a heart to help the people."
Members of this year’s class of more than 700 freshmen and transfer students spent the Saturday before the start of classes volunteering across Palm Beach County through Workship, a distinctive community service program that has been at the heart of PBA since its founding in 1968.
Groups worked on two Habitat homes under construction in Greenacres and one in West Palm Beach. Some of the other projects included helping with exotic plant removal at Pine Jog Environmental Education Center, Grassy Waters Preserve and the Palm Beach Zoo; cleaning horse stalls at Vinceremos Therapeutic Riding Center in Loxahatchee; working on a multi-use trail at Pondhawk Natural Area in Boca Raton; and hosting a block party for neighborhood children at Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church in West Palm Beach.
The student volunteers said they enjoyed getting to know other students from their residence halls as they worked side by side with them.
"It’s a good way to build community campuswide while serving the community," said Shanna Manel, a junior and assistant resident director who volunteered at Pine Jog Environmental Education Center in suburban West Palm Beach. She served with students from her floor in Baxter Residence Hall.
Freshman Jesse Chaffin, 18, said he enjoyed volunteering as a teenager in his hometown of Dallas, and PBA’s Workship program was a major draw for him.
"That’s probably the main reason why I chose this school," said Chaffin, who worked on landscaping at one of the Greenacres Habitat homes.
The Saturday Workship projects were among of several highlights of this year’s Welcome Week, which began Wednesday and continued through Sunday.
? An opening rally on Thursday brought students together in their “fish groups” and introduced them to PBA in a fun, exciting atmosphere.
? The President’s Ice Cream Social on Thursday allowed parents to meet others from their region of the country, and also to meet Interim President William M.B. Fleming Jr. and his wife, Pam.
? For students, a dinner and international festival was held on Saturday afternoon, followed by a night of bowling.
? A worship service was held on Sunday morning. Later in the day, students took part in a lip-sync competition.
? A closing service was held at the DeSantis Family Chapel on Sunday evening.