Annual MBA Habitat for Humanity Build Begins

September 22, 2014

Pictures from the build are available on our Flickr account at: 
Habitat Photos.

For the 12th consecutive year, the University of Tennessee MBA Program’s Tennessee Organization of MBAs (TOMBA) is teaming with Knoxville Habitat for Humanity to build a home.

This year’s project kicked off with a “blitz day” on Sept. 13.  Clear skies and unseasonably cool temperatures welcomed the crew that participated as part of the UT team.  By the end of the day, four walls were built and raised, and a roof was in place. The MBA-led group will convene for four additional work days with a dedication ceremony to be announced at a later date.

“We’ve had many other UT groups volunteer and work with us, including sports teams and fraternities,” said Mike Ehrhardt, a finance professor in the College of Business Administration.  “In fact, this year, the UT campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity is a co-sponsor of the home.”

Collaborating with Habitat for Humanity has become an annual tradition for the MBA students.  Ehrhardt and his wife, Sallie, have been part of the tradition since its inception.

“It started with an MBA student leader from the class of 2003, JP Peery,” Ehrhardt said.  “JP had volunteered on Habitat building projects when he lived in California before entering our program.” 

Peery and his classmates from the MBA Classes of 2003 and 2004 organized fundraising events and solicited donations from UT faculty and local businesses. 

In Fall 2003, MBA students and faculty became covenant sponsors for a Knoxville Habitat for Humanity home built on Selma Drive. Covenant sponsors raise a third of the cost for a home.  Knoxville Habitat for Humanity provides another third of the funding from general donations, and the homeowner takes out a loan with Habitat for Humanity for the remaining third.

This year’s house, which is being constructed on Worth Street in Knoxville, will provide a home for Joey Thompson and his three daughters. Thompson, whose profession is construction, worked alongside the volunteers on blitz day.  

While Thompson’s construction skills well suit him for assisting with his own home, all individuals who become homeowners through Habitat for Humanity are required to contribute 500 hours of sweat equity.  The balance of time not spent on their own build may be spent on construction of another Habitat home, volunteering at the organization’s thrift store and taking classes such as budgeting and basic home repair.

The first MBA-sponsored home belonged to the parents of a UT food services employee.  Two additional homes also have been built for individuals with ties to the university.

Each year since the inaugural effort in 2003, an MBA student has taken Peery’s reins as a project coordinator.  Ehrhardt, who has helped each new coordinator settle into that primary leadership role, said the task requires “many, many hours” to make the project successful. Rick Wheeler is the project coordinator for the 2014 build.