UI Ophthalmology Dept. raises $20K for Habitat for Humanity

"Hawk-Eye" build project allows UI departments, organizations give back

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Braving Saturday morning's humidity, a group of roughly 30 volunteers from the University of Iowa Ophthalmology department hammered, hauled, and hoisted plywood walls, giving shape to a home in the making.

The group of faculty, staff, residents, and fellows in training participated in the second build day for the Habitat for Humanity “Hawk-Eye” Build. The Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences department is sponsoring the build at 2821 Whispering Meadow Drive.

According to Public Relations Specialist Joe Schmidt, the department has raised over $20,000 in pledges and support since the project began late last year.

“It’s been a great opportunity for us to come together outside of our normal clinic and work environment,” Schmidt said. “...It’s a good way to build team morale and spirit.”

According to Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity Volunteer Coordinator Tami Bonnett, they have already chosen the family who will live in the home and they expect construction to be complete by the end of the summer. The organization helps low-income families by building safe, affordable homes.

Next door to the Ophthalmology team’s site, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans volunteers worked on their own sponsored build. In the fall, another UI group will sponsor the Women’s Build, and the Tippie College of Business Build will also resume, Bonnett said.

Bonnett said they work on construction every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from late May through November. In addition to building houses, they also help with ongoing repair projects.

Bonnett said it brings an extra benefit when local groups sponsor the builds.

“It’s great marketing for one thing. They really get the word out,” she said. “Especially the ophthalmology group. They’re very tied with this project and they communicate really well.”

On Saturday, the volunteers wore hard hats and yellow “Hawk-Eye Build” t-shirts with the words “I’m Making A Difference” on the chest.

Department Vice Chair Lee Alward said the department originally hoped the home would go to a visually impaired individual. Although that idea didn't come to fruition, Alward said they are invested in the project regardless.

“It gives people who are trying to make a better life for their family a chance to have a decent place to live,” he said.

In addition to raising funds for the build, the group has organized days specifically for department members to volunteer at the construction site. In June, they constructed the walls. On Saturday, they had to move the walls into place and raise them.

After helping move an especially large wall, 33-year-old Senior IT Support Consultant Dustin McGranahan worked to catch his breath. He said he lives only a few blocks away and feels that this home will be part of his own neighborhood.

“It’s helping local families start a new life together,” he said. “You feel like you’re invested a little more when you are a part of something like this.”

In addition to helping the community, he said working on a construction project with co-workers adds a new layer to their teamwork.

“It gives you a different perspective of peoples’ skills,” he said. “You see someone performing surgery or seeing a patient, but you don’t usually see them driving nails.”

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