On a recent Saturday morning, a project becoming known as The Ave Homes brought a spot of brightness to a community still reeling in the aftermath of a tremendous natural disaster.
30 Habitat for Humanity homes in Immokalee, Florida, were dedicated at a ceremony on Saturday, January 20th. Three of these homes, The Ave Homes, were built in partnership with The Mother Teresa Project at Ave Maria University by funds raised by Steve Auth, Wall Street Executive and friend of AMU.
Mr. Auth owns a seasonal home in Naples, Florida. After Hurricane Irma passed through the area in early September 2017, Mr. Auth was struck by the damage suffered in the town of Immokalee, which is located ten minutes from Ave Maria, Florida. He reached out to his friends and colleagues, quickly raising enough money to build new homes. Through a connection with a student at Ave Maria University, Mr. Auth partnered with The Mother Teresa Project and Habitat for Humanity to help coordinate the volunteer labor and logistics required to make this dream a reality.
Much of the work put into building The Ave Homes was done by AMU students. Athletic teams, faith households, RAs, and individual students signed up to volunteer their free time to frame, put up siding, and paint homes built to last. Mr. Auth and his wife, Evelyn, also devoted many of their weekends to work alongside the volunteers building homes. On January 20th, the donors, volunteers and homeowners all came together to celebrate the accomplishment. At the Habitat for Humanity dedication ceremony, each family was presented with a housewarming basket, and the homes were blessed. AMU student volunteers also had an opportunity to tour the completed homes and meet the grateful families.
Immokalee Rebuilds, the collaborative project between Mr. Auth, Habitat for Humanity, and Ave Maria University, has already begun construction on a fourth home. The project’s operating motto echos the words of Mother Teresa: “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”
Two AMU student volunteers (in the official bright blue Immokalee Rebuild t-shirts) stand for a group picture with Steve Auth, at center, the Wall Street Executive who funded The Ave Homes project, and the new residents.
Earlier this month eight AMU students set out to the airport for a 5-day mission trip to Haiti with the Missionaries of Charity. Over the course of a week, they had an intense service experience focused on prayer. The students in Haiti worked alongside Mother Teresa’s congregation of sisters at their compound in Port-au-Prince, served in the Children’s Home, and accompanied the sisters as they traveled to other cities and attended to men, women and children in need.
Mrs. Mary Towey, wife to President Towey, led the annual mission trip to Haiti, which was just one among the many places where our students have the opportunity to serve. Other mission trips offered this year through the Mother Teresa Project (MTP) include Calcutta, Washington, D.C., Dominican Republic, New Mexico, Mexico City, and Uganda.
As with all the MTP mission trips, our students in Haiti attended daily Mass and adoration. They journaled about and shared with one another the transforming power of the experience of service. AMU alumnus Ethan Bertrand (‘16) says that his time in Haiti was incredible. “It was really inspiring to spend time with the Sisters who dedicate their entire lives to serving the poorest of the poor and still manage to let the Joy of Christ radiate from them constantly,” he shares. Going on: “It changes your perspective on poverty to see it all firsthand, and I think the experience did just as much, if not more, to help me grow in faith as it helped the people there.”
The MTP mission trips are an opportunity for students to broaden their horizons, grow in self-knowledge, discover the dignity of each and every person, and encounter the loving face of Jesus in the poor. Through the Mother Teresa Project, Ave Maria University students have opportunities to serve at home as well as abroad. Some of the local agencies AMU students volunteer with include Habitat for Humanity, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Immokalee, Immokalee Soccer School, Immokalee Housing and Family Services, and Harbor Chase Memory Care Center. To learn more, visit MotherTeresaProject.org.