Area Fifth-Graders Wow Judges with 3-D Models of Their Dream Homes in Habitat for Humanity Contest


Habitat for Humanity of Chester County recently held its 18th Annual “Build a House … Build a Dream” contest for fifth-graders in the Delaware Valley.

For the first 16 years, the event had been held in person with hundreds of students, parents, and volunteers joining the organization to celebrate the students’ creativity and hard work. The 2020 event was scheduled to be in person, but ultimately turned into a small-scale virtual event with 22 out of 140 registered students submitting photos of their dream homes. This year, Habitat hosted the event virtually for the safety of participants, staff, and volunteers. More than 200 students registered to participate with 108 submitting photos and videos of their 3-D dream homes.

In this competition, students from more than 200 area schools were invited to work individually or in pairs to build their own three-dimensional, model dream home. Contestants then submitted photos or videos of their projects along with a description explaining their inspiration behind their design and aesthetic choices.

“The amount of creativity and attention to sustainability that the students have amazes me every year, but this year was another level,” said Becki Patterson, the Marketing and Communications Manager with Habitat for Humanity of Chester County.

This year’s creations included homes made of shipping containers, homes stacked with multiple floors to take up less space on the ground, and multiple houseboats, one of which even floated. An in-house judging process selected the Top 16 dream home architects to be virtually interviewed by a panel of judges. Each student had 10 minutes to share more detail, which is typically the amount of time judges would have with participants in person. All of the participants’ submissions were displayed in an online presentation with a special welcome message from NBC10 meteorologist Bill Henley, who ordinarily emcees the event.

Another event favorite is the “Build a House … Build a Dream” raffles that the organization was able to pull off virtually this year. There are two different raffles during the event. One that participants are automatically entered into for chances to win passes to kid-friendly activities and one where attendees can purchase tickets for chances to win one of the six grand-prize baskets. Businesses that donated passes for the participant raffle included Philadelphia Rock Gym, Bounce U in Exton, Dave & Buster’s in Plymouth Meeting, and Urban Air Trampoline Park. The grand-prize raffles ranged from car care kits to date night packages and everything in between.

The contest is free for participants, but thanks to local businesses, the event is one of the main fundraisers for Habitat throughout the year. Founding sponsor Fox & Roach/Trident Charities has championed the event from the beginning.

“In the past 18 years, we have helped raise over $500,000 to support Habitat’s mission to build strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter,” said CEO Larry Flick. “This is one of our favorite events. Over the years, more than 6,000 fifth-graders from 750 schools have used their ingenuity to build their incredible dream houses.”

Other sponsors that supported this year’s event included Bentley Systems, Eadeh Enterprises, Citadel, Martin Architectural Group, Saint-Gobain, RKL LLP, E.B. Walsh and Associates, McMahon Associates, Great Valley Racquet Club, JBC Associates, and Home Depot. Through these generous donors, the event was able to raise more than $14,000 to support Habitat for Humanity of Chester County.

The goal of “Build A House … Build A Dream” is to introduce elementary-age students to Habitat’s crucial mission of building affordable, accessible housing. Volunteer opportunities start at age 15, making it difficult to share Habitat’s mission with younger students. This event is a fun, creative way to remind the students that Habitat doesn’t just build a home; it builds a dream for a family in need.

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