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A group of WIU alumni recently worked on a Habitat for Humanity project in Rockford, IL.
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WIU Alumni Help at Habitat For Humanity Event

July 18, 2016

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MACOMB, IL – A few Western Illinois University alumni partnered to help others through the Midtown Community Workday, Saturday June 11, in the Midtown District in Rockford (IL). The event was a one-day neighborhood revitalization project, hosted by Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity, to help families in Midtown with exterior home repairs.

Keri Nelson, a 2000 WIU graduate with a degree in law enforcement, is the executive director of the Rockford Habitat for Humanity. When Nelson was attending WIU, she was a resident in Thompson Hall, and was part of a group that helped with a Habitat build as one of its service projects. After this experience, Nelson said she was "hooked."

"I volunteered with the McDonough County Habitat affiliate while in Macomb, and when I moved to Sycamore, I immediately began volunteering with the DeKalb County affiliate, and eventually joined their board of directors," said Nelson. "While on the board, I was introduced to the Campus Chapter of Habitat at Northern Illinois University. While helping the NIU chapter, I went on several alternative spring break trips to Pensacola to help Habitat rebuild after Hurricane Ivan."

When Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast, Nelson was asked if she could bring some volunteers down to help.

"We took our first trip in May of 2006, eight short months after the storm had devastated the area, and it changed my life. I coordinated groups of volunteers twice a year for the next five years, helping the residents of Slidell rebuild after the hurricane. I made the trek to the New Orleans area 12 different times – each time learning something new about the people of southeast Louisiana, and more importantly, learning new things about myself. To say it changed my life is an understatement – it helped make me who I am today."

In June 2014, Nelson was hired as the executive director for the Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity affiliate.

"Combining my volunteer passion with my profession was a dream come true for me and I've been so blessed to get to live out this dream each and every day," she said. "I've been a Habitat volunteer for half my life – and it all started in Thompson Hall, on the campus of WIU."

During the Midtown Community Workday, volunteers came together to work on home improvement projects throughout the Midtown neighborhood. Volunteers met in the early morning for registration, breakfast and a welcome message, and then made their way to the home they were assigned to for the day. They took a break for lunch at noon, where residents provided entertainment. After lunch, groups went back to their homes to finish their projects. Projects included painting, landscaping, building a deck and replacing doors and windows.

The group of WIU graduates was assigned to the same home, so they worked together to build a deck and paint a front and side porch. Nelson added, "In true Leatherneck fashion, when some of the volunteers completed their task, they made their way to another home to help with landscaping and yard clean up."

The WIU alums that attended this event included:
• Keri Nelson, of Sycamore (IL) (Law Enforcement and Justice Administration, 2000);
• Antonio Asevedo, of Batavia (IL) (Art, 1996);
• Jennie Nance-Escamilla, of Lindenhurst (IL) (Communication, 2000);
• Stephanie Kness, of DeKalb (IL) (Biology, 2000);
• Stacey Smith-Macchi, of Macomb (Communication and Political Science, 2001. Communication, 2003);
• David Macchi, of Macomb (Sociology, 2001);
• Dante Trimble, of Chicago (IL), (Law Enforcement and Justice Administration, 2014);
• Clinton Powless, of East Moline (IL) (Law Enforcement and Justice Administration, 2000);
• Lauren Banek, of Woodridge (IL) (Sociology, 2001);
• Mike Anderson, of Belvidere (IL) (Elementary and Junior High Education, 2015);
• Benjamin Hoy, of Lindenhurst (IL) (Mass Communication, 1991) and
• William Steele, of Carol Stream (IL) (Communication, 2011).

Stacey Macchi, assistant professor of communication, was one of the alums to attend the event.

"I was absolutely thrilled to be involved in such a great event for the Rockford community" said Macchi. "It was heartwarming to see so many individuals come together to make a difference. In addition, I was especially proud of my fellow WIU alumni, who showed up from all over the state of Illinois to help out this life-changing program, Habitat for Humanity. The sheer joy that we were able to bring to the homeowner was priceless. I can't wait to be involved again next year."

Nelson said Habitat helps families with a dream of owning their home.

"There are so many hard working families out there that don't qualify for a conventional mortgage and Habitat is the program that will allow them to purchase a home with a zero percent interest rate. We ask each of our families to put in 300 hours of sweat equity – helping build their home - as their down payment. Habitat's mission is to put God's love into action by building homes, community and hope."

To learn more about the Rockford Area Habitat for Humanity, visit

Posted By: Katie Hopping (
Office of University Communications & Marketing