By SEAN BARRON
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A few years ago, K.C. Kerrigan learned the local Habitat for Humanity chapter was reorganizing. She attended a meeting, but never anticipated she and four others would end up raising more than $22,000 for the organization.
The five Cardinal Mooney seniors were honored for their community work Wednesday at their school's academic awards ceremony.
Kerrigan, Katie Higham, Jessica Moss, Geoff Fleming and Eric Jay received Habitat for Humanity's Golden Nail Award. Their fund-raisers included car washes, walk-a-thons and bike-a-thons, as well as church efforts.
Robert Coggeshall, a Habitat for Humanity board member, presented each student with a plaque.
The group talked about what went in to some of its ideas and what working for the local Habitat chapter has meant.
"I didn't expect to raise so much money," Higham said. "I expected a few hundred dollars at the most."
She added the five brainstormed and collaborated with one another for ideas.
"We named every 'a-thon' we could think of," she said, laughing.
Once the group nailed down an idea, they moved to the next step: recruiting other students. Kerrigan contacted her school's service club and soon had numerous volunteers ready to help out.
Many parents also were interested in taking part, Moss added.
The five came up with an "awake-a-thon", in which about 60 kids got sponsors to pay them to stay up all night. That event brought in around $1,500, Kerrigan said.
Sprucing up: They also helped to clear sites for groundbreaking ceremonies. Hands-on work included painting, insulating, cleaning and putting up drywall on homes. Jay, whose father is a professional painter, did a lot of paint and trim work.
Those going away to college said they intend to stay active with the organization. Kerrigan, who will be moving to Dayton, said she hopes to encourage other Cardinal Mooney students to carry on her work.
Fleming said he will see if Boston College has a chapter. Otherwise, he will search the Boston area for one, he said.
Jay said he would continue with fund raising and would be available to serve on any committee that needs him. He plans to attend Youngstown State University this fall.
Kerrigan said she initially thought Habitat for Humanity was only in the South. Former President Jimmy Carter shaped her early impressions of the organization.
"I had heard about [Habitat] a million times, but I never knew we had a chapter," she said.
Coggeshall said the five students weren't afraid to take the initiative.
"They knew what channels to take. They contacted churches and made speaking engagements themselves. They also designed their own brochures," he added.
On May 21, the students presented their latest contribution of $2,300 to the Habitat board. The money will go toward building homes for low-income working families.