University, Habitat for Humanity partner to build ninth Maroon Edition home

Mississippi State University President Mark E. Keenum drives the first nail of the ninth Maroon Edition Habitat for Humanity home as Starkville Area Habitat for Humanity Construction Supervisor John Breazeale looks on. The Maroon Edition home will be built by MSU and Habitat for Humanity volunteers this fall for Habitat partner Kareema Gillon and her two children. PHOTO: Beth Wynn | Public Affairs

Mississippi State University and Starkville Area Habitat for Humanity officials broke ground Friday [Aug. 11] on the ninth Maroon Edition home, which will be built this fall by volunteers from Habitat for Humanity and MSU.

The groundbreaking ceremony officially kicked off construction of the house on Owens Street, which is being built for Habitat partner family Kareema Gillon and her two young children. MSU President Mark E. Keenum hammered the house’s first nail.

“A lot of students will come out here and help build this home, giving love to this family and community, but also learning about the importance of service and helping other people,” Keenum said. “That’s what college is about, not only educating young people, but preparing them for their lives and future so they can serve others.”

Starkville Area Habitat for Humanity has provided over 60 homes to local families. Habitat officials said Friday they were thankful for partners like MSU that have helped them carry out their mission of building homes, communities and hope.

“Everybody deserves a place to have a home, a place to call their own,” Starkville Area Habitat for Humanity Board President Barbara Coats said. “Everybody deserves a place to raise their children.”

The Habitat home is part of the service-learning component of the Maroon Edition First-Year Reading Experience, which encourages students to read a common book. The 2017 Maroon Edition book is “The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates” by Wes Moore. Students will have the opportunity to work volunteer shifts on the Habitat home during Dawg Daze events and throughout the fall semester.

The new home will provide a better living environment for Gillon and her children, age two and seven. Gillon is an assistant manager at McDonald’s. Her family currently lives in a small trailer with a poor electrical system and uneven floors. Gillon hopes to graduate with an associate’s degree from East Mississippi Community College in social work and looks forward to raising her family in a safe place they can call their own.

The Gillon family home is the latest house built on Owens Street, which is now lined with Habitat for Humanity homes on both sides of the street.

“I would like to thank everyone with Habitat for Humanity for not only building a great house, but a great neighborhood,” Starkville Community Development Director Buddy Sanders said.

The Maroon Volunteer Center will help coordinate student groups and individuals seeking to volunteer. Many students will work on the house during Service DAWGS Day on Monday [Aug. 14]. Once the house is complete, a dedication will be held, and the Gillon family will receive their new home.

“We’re not only helping students get their college degrees at Mississippi State, we’re helping them find their purpose in life,” MSU Vice President for Student Affairs Regina Hyatt said. “We hope for every student that they find their purpose in service to others.”

For more on the Maroon Edition program, visit

The Maroon Volunteer Center is online at; and Starkville Area Habitat for Humanity at

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at

James Carskadon | Public Affairs

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