New Albany News

Erlichman passionate about building homes for others

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Senior Adam Erlichman didn't realize how much his outlook on life would change when he joined New Albany High School's Habitat for Humanity Club.

"As a freshman, I sort of backed into it," Erlichman said.

Erlichman, 18, said teacher David Mitchell, the club's adviser, did a great job describing the club and what it does, so he joined.

"When I went out to volunteer, it became very apparent to me very quickly about Habitat's mission and what I really latched on to is the amazing and deserving qualities of the families Habitat for Humanity partners with," he said.

Four years and more than eight home builds later, Erlichman has served as high school club president two years and also serves on the board of the New Albany Habitat for Humanity partnership, which has helped sponsor eight builds.

"Adam is amazing in his ability to think beyond himself," Mitchell said in an email. "He was genuinely moved by the mission of Habitat to help provide affordable housing for those deserving people who have never owned a home before. He constantly let students know about opportunities to get involved and was a great leader in the Habitat club."

Erlichman said Habitat for Humanity selects people who can't afford homes and raises $25,000 to $100,000 to help them build one with the help of volunteers.

The homeowners must qualify for low-income status and put in 100 hours of construction time. They also must complete 100 hours of education on homeownership and financial literacy.

Habitat for Humanity holds the mortgage in an interest-free loan on the home once it is built and the homeowners make payments so they can take over the mortgage and eventually own the home, according to Habitat for Humanity MidOhio.

Erlichman described the families he's worked with through Habitat as "the working poor, who are trying to help themselves."

"There's something called 'sweat equity' that Habitat requires," Erlichman said. "It means the homeowner has to put a certain number of hours in their home or others. What I've found interesting is that most families exceed that requirement."

Erlichman gave examples of working fathers, attending school and working several jobs to support their families, and children, who were not excited about going to school until they had their own home to live in and felt some stability.

He said he has learned that circumstances beyond one's control, such as a medical problem or job loss, can sometimes throw a family into a position that prevents them from owning a home.

"I think we're helping the entire family lineage when we're helping build these homes," Erlichman said.

Erlichman said he has found other benefits from working with Habitat for Humanity, some of which he described as "indirect."

He said he couldn't swing a hammer before working on his first home but now is fairly handy from working on several construction sites.

"The experience, I think, that Habitat gives to individual volunteers is pretty amazing, too," Erlichman said. "You end up meeting people from different cultures and people with a different way of life."

Erlichman said he has worked with a group of retirees on several homes.

"Being around them and also meeting other volunteers has shaped my political beliefs a little bit," he said.

That doesn't include what he's learned about public speaking by speaking to groups on behalf of Habitat for Humanity, or the hours he's spent organizing fundraisers.

The two most recent he has organized are slated for June.

From 1 to 4 p.m. June 1, Erlichman and other members of the New Albany High School Habitat for Humanity Club will collect furniture, windows, televisions and other home materials -- excluding paint and fluorescent lights -- for Habitat's Columbus ReStore, which sells construction materials and other items to raise money for Habitat projects.

The collection point is the New Albany Middle School bus loop on Dublin-Granville Road.

The other will be from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. June 11 at Flanagan's Pub, 3001 Reynoldsburg-New Albany Road. Shawn Vidala and Kent Pepper have agreed to perform for free and part of the proceeds will be donated to New Albany Habitat for Humanity.

Erlichman said organizing the events was part of his senior seminar project, a New Albany High School graduation requirement that asks students to research an idea and create a product or complete a project. Eighty hours of work must be documented.

"I spent around 200 hours between the home builds and spent a smaller amount of time at the ReStore on Westerville Road and promoting and recruiting for fundraisers, also speaking at local farmers markets and stuff," Erlichman said.

"The fact that he spent over 300 hours with Habitat on his senior project when only 80 (hours) are required is another indication of his commitment to Habitat's mission," Mitchell said in an email. "While many high school students are still learning to advocate for themselves, Adam was well beyond this and was passionate about advocating for Habitat."

Erlichman said he hopes to study chemical engineering at Cleveland's Case Western Reserve University in the fall but Habitat will never be far from his heart or his spare time.

He said he plans to get involved with the Habitat organizations near the university and continue his involvement when he graduates and finds a job.

"I'm definitely going to -- wherever I end up -- be involved with Habitat for Humanity," Erlichman said. "I'll try to help them with whatever skills I've learned from working in Ohio."

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