Team effort, beneficence key to off- and on-field success for Andrean
By Anthony D. Alonzo
Northwest Indiana Catholic
Andrean football players know a thing or two about a team effort. After all, many have said that their cohesiveness and unselfish attitudes were key factors in their successful trek to the Class 3A state championship last year.
So when presented with the opportunity to volunteer and provide hands-on help at a local Habitat for Humanity renovation, 59ers head coach Phil Mason and 16 players said “yes.” The strip-to-the-drywall effort in Hammond saw student-athletes show up early in the morning for a summer day’s work on Aug. 1.
Adult Habitat volunteers brought power tools and construction know-how, and the players brought their youthful energy to the house that had been damaged and abandoned. Some of the teens admitted that sleeping-in was a priority for them, especially as the summer wound down. This day would be different, however.
“I’d probably be sleeping in right now, or watching some TV,” said sophomore running back and linebacker Adam Maluchnik, with teammate Eric Malarski, sophomore wide receiver and defensive back, working close by on linoleum removal. “I’d get up at 10 or 11 a.m.”
Maluchnik said the chance to work with his teammates on the rehab was something he couldn’t pass up: “It felt good. I thought the whole team would be here… I’ve never really done anything like this before; it’s a new experience.”
Work commenced bright and early both inside and outside of the ranch-style house in the distressed neighborhood. Scaffolding belonging to Habitat was erected to provide a platform for the players to strip the building’s aluminum siding. Inside, flooring in all the rooms was being removed.
Scraps piled up and a rented dumpster began to fill with materials removed from the structure. Having to tackle the entire the entire house seemed, at first, to be a daunting task for the teens.
“It seemed like (a lot of work) but when you have a bunch of guys working on the same thing it actually finishes up pretty fast,” said Andrean senior tight end and defensive end Josh Barajas. “We like to goof around a lot so I didn’t think we were going to get as much done, but we work together pretty well.”
Barajas, who has received many college football scholarship offers after his 90-tackle season last year, called the Habitat work the “first labor” the team has done for charity. He said the Christmas gift deliveries they made last year were also an opportunity to show faith in action.
Their efforts are a real boost to the restoration efforts, with officials saying the complete restoration could take several additional weeks. The property was re-purchased by Habitat and will be offered to a qualifying applicant.
“We’ve recognized as an ecumenical ministry – a non-denominational-based ministry with God and Christ and (conveying) the passion of humanity for others – that… our goal is to spread the awareness and to kind of spark interest in the younger generation,” said Kristin Marlow-Kellemen of Habitat. “We tend to not have an issue with getting volunteers who’ve already retired… or in that middle-aged category. They’ve seen some hardships and they know the benefit of giving back.”
Larry Counts, project manager for Habitat’s Northwest Indiana office, was also on hand to supervise the project. The officials agreed that “rivalries between local teams” could benefit the non-profit, which would gladly accept donated hours by athletes.
Some coaches are leery of letting their athletes do physical activities outside of their sport, but Mason said he was happy the way the Habitat project turned out and is interested in getting his football players involved with another charitable effort this season.
The 59ers athletic department became aware of the local Habitat project through the connection that St. Mary Parish (Crown Point) already had with their “Project 150” initiative, one of the ministries Father Patrick Kalich set up.
Parents said the student-athletes worked well together and were just like a “family” and “brotherhood.”
“They have been so blessed with not just a football championship, but a baseball championship. They have to show the community they are paying forward their good fortune,” said Beatrice Vode, mother of senior player Alex Vode, a running back and linebacker.
For more information about donating time, talent or treasure to Habitat for Humanity, call 923-7265 or visit nwihabitat.org.