The Collegian
Tuesday, August 09, 2022

Sigma Chi brothers Hammer it Home

The Sigma Chi brothers at the University of Richmond are using a portion of their funds to construct a home in Richmond for Jarneshia, the single mother of Jaden, a 7-year-old boy with Autism.

Sigma Chi brothers are encouraging students to join in the construction through a project that they collaboratively organized, "Hammer It Home."

Although Sigma Chi's national philanthropy is the Huntsman Cancer Institute, the brothers at Richmond decided to get involved with this project when they received an outside donation and wanted to put it toward something worthwhile, Philanthropy Chairman Chris Genualdi, a senior, said.

"Instead of putting the money toward lodge parties and booze we wanted to do something good," he said. "Last year a bunch of the brothers went out one day and participated in 'Build It' and had a lot of fun with it. So we figured, you know what, let's do it again."

The house, which will be built on a lot at 1425 N. 22nd St. in east Richmond's Churchill neighborhood, will have two stories, a front porch and a master bedroom, said the Sigma Chi alumnus in charge of the project, Tom Dittrich.

Construction is scheduled to begin on Oct. 15 and continue Wednesday through Saturday of every week for the rest of the semester. Volunteers will be expected to commit a full day on the construction site, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Genualdi said.

The fraternity is aiming to have 25 volunteers sign up for each build day, and transportation to the site will be provided, Dittrich said. Saturdays are expected to fill up first, since fewer people have commitments on the weekends, so it would be most beneficial if students that didn't have classes on Wednesdays, Thursdays or Fridays volunteered for shifts on those days.

Sophomore Caroline Vincent, who works with Habitat for Humanity building houses along the Gulf Coast during the summer, said she was really excited about the opportunity to get involved in Richmond.

"It's a really rewarding experience," Vincent said. "You are actually able to see what your work is going into and the people you are helping."

Volunteers for Hammer it Home will have the opportunity to meet Jarneshia and Jaden at the build site, Dittrich said.

"I know people are really busy," he said, "But everyone has one day."

No construction experience is necessary or expected for volunteers, he said. Project officials will give tutorials explaining the tools and tasks each morning.

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The project, which is sponsored by Habitat for Humanity, was the joint effort of Richmond's Sigma Chi brothers and members from Richmond Metropolitan and Virginia Commonwealth University's Habitat organizations.

Although Richmond Metropolitan Habitat officials often work with students from university organizations, this is the first time they can recall a fraternity sponsorship, said Richmond Metropolitan Habitat's Director of Development Steve Thomas.

"They've been fantastic to work with," Thomas said. "We're really excited about getting the project underway."

Jarneshia and her son were able to apply for the project since they met the socio-economic qualifications required for consideration by Habitat for Humanity, Dittrich said.

This year Richmond Metropolitan Habitat is sponsoring 43 housing constructions, Thomas said.

"Habitat doesn't give away houses," Dittrich said. "The benefit is that instead of just paying rent, like they are now, they will be building equity."

Jarneshia will be expected to pay mortgage, without interest, for the new home and to commit 350 hours toward helping build other Habitat-funded houses (hours the organization labels 'sweat equity').

"The unique thing about this project is that it's completely student-run," Dittrich said. "Other than the Habitat contractors that are required to be on the site, everything will be done by students."

Sigma Chi brothers will be available to answer questions and recruit volunteers at their table in the Tyler Haynes Commons during the day throughout the next week. To volunteer your time or make a donation, visit the project's Web site.

Contact staff writer Emily Viviani at

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