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Associate Professor Gives Back Through Habitat for Humanity

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
April 27, 2011

Ken Flesher

Sometimes doing volunteer work is really just a busman’s holiday. That’s the case with Ken Flesher, who teaches construction management at the Thompson School of Applied Science. Volunteering with Southeast New Hampshire Habitat for Humanity is an extension of his day job that lets him get his hands dirty and makes him feel good at the same time.

It also creates a two-way flow between his classes and being out in the field, where he helps build houses for those in need.

Flesher, who has been at UNH for 21 years, started volunteering with Habitat for Humanity a little more than two years ago when he moved to Barrington and wanted to find a way to be involved in his new community. In the process of looking around for the right fit, he ran into a former student who told him Southeast New Hampshire Habitat for Humanity was looking for people to serve on its building committee.

“I knew that was something for me,” Flesher says. “It dovetails really well into what I teach here.”

Habitat for Humanity provides housing opportunities for those who might otherwise not be able to get into homeownership. The properties are built, or renovated, through donations of time, materials and money. Homeowners are required to contribute a minimum of 250 hours on the project. They also must be able to afford the monthly, zero-interest mortgage. It is not subsidized.

Habitat houses are sold at no profit and are financed with affordable loans. Mortgage payments are used to fund future projects.

When he first signed on with Habitat, the nonprofit housing program wasn’t in the building mode but Flesher’s skills still proved useful as he helped with remodeling projects. Then, in 2009, a piece of land was secured in Farmington and construction began on a duplex. Flesher designed the septic system and staked out the land. He oversees other volunteers and has even recruited UNH students to volunteer.

“A lot of volunteers don’t have any experience and those are my favorites,” he says. “I like being able to teach them something at the same time that they are helping. I don’t just say, ‘Okay, today we’re going to do this.’ I say, ‘This is what we’re doing and this is why.’”

And while it began as a way to be involved in his community, volunteering with Habitat for Humanity has become a part of Flesher’s life. It’s something he believes in—giving back; offering a hand up to those in need.

It takes a long time to get a house built with volunteer labor. It’s a big commitment; Flesher spends every Saturday working on the house. But it’s worth it.

“I really enjoy being involved, giving something back,” he says. “I don’t do it for the glory. I do it because I like being able to help give people a chance.”

To volunteer or for more information on Southeast New Hampshire Habitat for Humanity, go to http://www.senhhabitat.org/.

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