Mother’s Day was extra sweet for Stephanie Ybarra, thanks to the Texas A&M University students and other volunteers who’ve devoted months of fundraising and physical labor to bring her dream house to fruition.
Students at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M, along with Bryan/College Station Habitat for Humanity, and thanks to the donations of many, dedicated the house, painted Aggie maroon, to President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush for their many years of devotion to public service.
The Ybarras, including father Andrew and their five children aged 5-16, last week were handed the keys to the “Bush School House,” located in the new Faith subdivision near Martin Luther King St. in Bryan.
President Bush spoke of the project from his home in Kennebunkport, Maine, thanking the volunteers for their work. “Barbara and I are so very proud of our Bush School students who participated in the Habitat for Humanity construction project in Bryan/College Station,” he said. “There can be no definition of a successful life that does not include service to others. Only when we reach out to others, and give our time and talent to a cause bigger than ourselves, can we as a community overcome the challenges we face and build a better, brighter future. I would congratulate you on your selflessness, but the fact is the greatest reward you can receive is the satisfaction you have in your heart knowing you have helped your fellow man.”
Bush School students spent more than a year raising the $40,000 that was needed to build the five-bedroom home and received support from students and alumni, faculty and staff, donors, friends of the Bush School and library, the staff at Habitat and the future homeowners.
“Once we raised the funds, volunteers raised the walls, laid shingles, painted the siding and laid sod over the course of 10 weeks,” said Travis Stalcup, a spring graduate of the Bush School’s Master’s Program in International Affairs and one of the project coordinators.
The Ybarra family was congratulated at last Thursday’s dedication ceremony for all the hard work they put into the project; Habitat for Humanity requires families to put 500 hours of “sweat equity” into a home before they can take ownership, including work at the construction site, as well as volunteering at other home sites and in the Habitat ReStore.
Stalcup and project co-coordinator, Calen Caple, who also graduated this month from the Bush School, with her Master’s in Public Service and Administration, had the honor of handing over the house keys to the Ybarra family. “That was a moment in my life I will never forget,” Caple recalled. “I was overcome with emotion and love for this family and I was blown away by the selfless devotion of time, money, and energy by the students involved and their genuine interest in aiding the family. They stepped up in ways I never expected, even offering their own furniture to the family when they discovered their need.”
During the dedication, the Ybarra family was presented with several traditional housewarming gifts, but one had a twist: the usual “Welcome” wall-hanging presented to all BCS Habitat families instead reads, “Howdy!” ― Texas A&M’s official campus greeting.
“I wanted students to see how they could make an impact in their community,” noted Stalcup. “For many of them, their next job will be their first job. Hopefully, this experience will show them that their paycheck is much more than rent or dinner out ― they’ll have developed a habit of philanthropy.”