Cadet Stephen Schloss '06
Early in the morning, when the crisp air still hangs amid the thick fog on
Johns Island, cadets clad in green and brown Army fatigues arrive in a developing
neighborhood. The Palmetto Battery cadets work every Saturday for about eight
hours building houses with Charleston’s Habitat for Humanity.
Schloss is a junior cadet from Yorktown, Va. An English major,
he is currently working as an intern in The Citadel's Public Affairs Office.
as a human affairs initiative within the newly expanded company, Palmetto Battery
has championed this effort to produce leaders concerned with the well being
of the community. Typically, about 10 cadets show up at the site’s storage
trailer to join other volunteers in dividing the work load for that particular
day. Today, Cadet Laura Gisinger from Elizabeth, N.J., leads the team, this
time composed mostly of freshman. She works on carpentry in the kitchen of one
particular home, installing the cabinets and cleaning the floors. This is the
first time she has ever participated in any type of house construction.
“I feel challenged
knowing I am working on someone else’s home, and I want my contribution
to make the house the best it can be for this family,” says Gisinger.
The house will be ready to move in by January.
Another group of cadets has been assigned to prepare a lot for a foundation,
which includes digging ditches along the perimeter. Four freshman have been
assigned to this task.
“It is fitting a knob at The Citadel would have to do this,” comments
One freshman in particular says the weekly community service project has helped
him free his mind of the rigors of The Citadel’s fourth-class system.
He enjoys concentrating his efforts, however temporarily, on the betterment
of someone else’s life.
The first four hours of the day are typically the most labor intensive with
activities ranging from digging trenches for footings to indoor carpentry and
even installing vinyl siding and roof shingles. After an intense morning, the
cadets and the volunteers go to a Mexican restaurant near the work site for
lunch. People with busted thumbs, bruised and scraped knees, dirt smudged deep
into clothes, and thick sweat gather around a long narrow table to eat and muse
over the day’s activities. Upon returning to the neighborhood, labor continues
at a slower, more relaxed pace for about two hours. One of the chief volunteers
with Habitat for Humanity rides in his truck from house to house gathering the
volunteers to start moving equipment back to the storage trailers. The families
who will live in these houses can be found working just as hard as the volunteers.
motivates me to work with the father of the family who will live in this house,”
says Cadet Adam Byerly from Spartanburg, S.C. “I didn’t realize
how serious the work of Habitat for Humanity was until I started becoming friends
with a family that will one day live in one of these houses, getting to know
them personally and learning about their struggles in life.”
The weekly work these cadets do shows them how a supportive group can provide
a lifeline to others in need. These families know struggles cadets may never
encounter, but this service work helps them better understand what intense poverty
is actually like.
this experience, some of these cadets will never forget the struggling faces
of each of the families and will want to continue working on behalf of people
in similar situations.