Thursday, November 16, 2006

Division III SAAC Announces Community Service Initiative with Habitat for Humanity

INDIANAPOLIS---The Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) is leading a division-wide community service initiative with Habitat for Humanity International.

Division III SAAC’s goal is to engage 60 percent of Division III membership in at least one Habitat for Humanity service project in the next three semesters (September 2006 through December 2007) in the areas of building, fundraising, advocacy and education.

“The Division III SAAC has taken a leadership role by asking Division III student-athletes to integrate their athletic involvement into an academic lesson, the importance of social involvement,” said Sarah MacInnis, assistant director of Education Outreach and NCAA staff liaison to the Division III SAAC. “Division III student-athletes are already frequently involved in community service activities. The Division III SAAC recognized this and is asking their peers to focus their efforts to effect change on a larger scale.”

In July the Division III SAAC voted to formally support the already-established partnership between the NCAA and Habitat for Humanity by beginning a movement within Division III which focuses on civic responsibility. Division III student-athletes are commonly involved in community service, but SAAC agreed their efforts would be more powerful by focusing SAAC’s energies toward a unified goal.

Jessica Huntley, basketball student-athlete at York College (Pennsylvania) and member of the Division III national SAAC, spearheaded the partnership with her colleagues on the Community Outreach Project Team (a subcommittee of Division III SAAC).

“We organized this subcommittee last summer and we were reminded of the NCAA partnership with Habitat for Humanity,” Huntley said. “We wanted to try to get a partnership with Division III started this year, though we weren’t sure how realistic that would be. But this is my last year on the national SAAC, so I really wanted to be a part of it. It was more difficult than we imagined it would be, but with the help of the people from Habitat and NCAA staff, we were able to make the plan a reality in a very short time. Without all of their hard work, this partnership would have never happened.”

A tool kit is provided for Division III members on the NCAA’s website,

“I congratulate the Division III SAAC and Habitat for Humanity on the development of this important program,” said Dan Dutcher, vice president for Division III. “It will reinforce the educational values that are at the heart of Division III athletics, both for the participating student-athletes and for members of the affected communities.”

The Division III SAAC recognizes that many conferences and institutions have established relationships with other community agencies; however this initiative offers an additional opportunity to join a national effort, MacInnis said. In no way is involvement mandated; rather it is encouraged as a means to provide life-skills education, to enhance institution and community relations, and create positive change on a national scale.

In response to the devastation caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the NCAA partnered with Habitat for Humanity International in outreach and volunteer efforts. The “Home Team” partnership began in September 2005 with a $1 million lead gift from Division II and a $500,000 matching gift from the Association and the national office. In January, Association leadership pledged an additional $1 million for a total of $2.5 million.

In an effort to rebuild the Gulf Coast, the NCAA partnered with Habitat for Humanity in pursuing its goal of building simple, decent, affordable houses for those in need.

There have been NCAA Home Team build sites at several NCAA Championships, including the 2006 Men’s Final Four (Indianapolis), the 2005 Division I-AA Football Championship (Chattanooga), the 2006 Division II Men’s and Women’s Swimming Championships (Indianapolis), and a build in Knoxville, Tennessee, in April in conjunction with the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Induction weekend. A six-home build will take place at the Division II Sports Festival in Pensacola, Florida, in November, while another build is planned for the 2007 NCAA Convention in Orlando, Florida, in January.

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